COOS BAY — Dungeness crab fishermen along the Oregon coast began setting their pots in the ocean on Friday after an agreement was reached in the annual state-supervised crab price negotiations late Wednesday afternoon.
According to a press release from Hugh Link, interim administrator of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, the 2012-13 crab season officially started at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 31, after “meat-fill” concerns triggered a month-long delay in the fishery, which normally opens on Dec. 1.
Terms of the agreement, negotiated between the state’s five port crab marketing associations and four seafood processors under the supervision of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, have been reviewed and formally ratified by ODA Director Katy Coba, as required by statute, Link wrote.
ODA Marketing Division head Gary Roth, who along with staff, supervised the negotiations, noted that this was the seventh time in the past 10 years the bargaining process has achieved a mutually agreeable opening price. The agreed-upon price is $2.30 per pound.
“I congratulate everyone involved for working hard to find common ground and get the job done in time to get this important fishery under way” Roth said.
Fishing fleets in all three West Coast states were idled after pre-season tests indicated that crabs in some areas would not meet minimum opening standards based on meat-to-shell ratios established to ensure good quality product in the marketplace.
Link is convinced that the delay will benefit consumers in the long run.
“This year’s crop needed a little more time in the ocean and although it was disappointing not to have boatloads of fresh crab for the holidays, waiting until they are nice and full was the right thing to do.”
Waters in Oregon and southern Washington were open for commercial crabbing Dec. 31 and crabbers are hoping for good weather so they can make up for lost time. California officials recently decided to postpone the start of the northern California crab fishery until Jan. 15 as an extra precaution.