CHARLESTON -- The opening price for Oregon Dungeness crab is finally set.
Fishermen and processors agreed Wednesday night to open at $2.30 per pound for the first 24 hours of the season, which is scheduled to begin Monday.
The agreement comes after a month of delays.
'It seems like it is always a last-minute deal with these crab, whether we go through formal negotiations or we strike," said Rex Leach, the president of the Coos Umpqua Crabbing Association. 'There's no reason to go settle a price when our crab aren't ready."
The Dungeness crab season in Oregon usually begins Dec. 1, but the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife delayed the season by nearly a month this year because crab were not sufficiently full of meat.
'They're going to be fuller now," Leach said. 'That is why we delayed."
This is the second year in a row fishermen will open the season at $2.30 off the boat -- the highest opening price ever agreed on in Oregon.
Last season, fishermen agreed to lock that record-breaking price for the first 22 days of fishing instead of allowing the market to dictate cost. Had the market driven prices down, it would have been a good deal, Leach said.
But that was not the case.
By the time the price lock expired, fishermen guessed the market value for crab had exceeded $3.50 per pound -- a lot of lost revenue.
Oregon crab must be a certain size to be caught and kept, and most of the crab that are large enough to sell are caught in the first few weeks of the season. So most of the crab were caught and sold while the price was locked.
'This year we have no time lock," Leach said. 'We're going to let the market drive prices up and down. I'm confident they'll go up. It depends on how much production is out there in the ocean."
Commercial fishermen can begin setting their crab pots Friday morning at 8 a.m. They can begin collecting the pots at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
'I hope everyone is safe," Leach said, 'and I hope our crab traps are full of crab."
Reporter Jessie Higgins can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or firstname.lastname@example.org.