COOS BAY, Ore. – Local crabbers are once again bracing for a problem they know all too well.
The start of the commercial Dungeness crab season is being delayed until December 16 – at the earliest.
It’s not the first time the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has delayed the start beyond the traditional December 1.
Jeff Sober, a crabber of almost 40 years, said it happens frequently.
He is always ready by December – but saves money just case.
“We’re just going to be delayed. The season will happen eventually,” he said. “We do have a Christmas market. If we miss out on that, we’ll probably miss out on some money.”
ODFW said crabs are too low in meat to open the season December 1.
“Some of the warming conditions have changed the oceans out here, and the crabs just aren’t developing fully as they should by December 1,” said Hugh Link, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. “We’re adapting with those changes.”
The warmer water is linked to the so-called Blob, a pool of warm water associated with El Nino and climate change.
“Crab really like cold water,” Link said. “So the warmer the water, the deeper they’ll go to find cooler water.”
Also associated with that is hypoxia, an area of water with little to no oxygen that now forms annually during the summer.
And while some crabbers want the season to open sooner rather than later, when faced with the trade off between quantity of time spent waiting and quality of the crab – they’ll take quality.
“We’ll wait for a better price,” Sober said, “instead of going out fishing for less of a price.”
Commercial Dungeness crab is Oregon’s most valuable fishery. “Last year’s season opening was also delayed,” according to ODFW, “but still brought in the highest ex-vessel value ever ($74 million) with 23.1 million pounds landed, about 31 percent above the 10-year average.”