OLYMPIA - A later-than-expected molting cycle for Dungeness crab could delay the scheduled June 4 opening of recreational crab fishing in some waters north of Everett.
Recent testing of crab shell hardness by biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has shown a large percentage of Dungeness crab still have soft shells, indicating the annual molting process hasn't run its course, said Steve Burton, WDFW shellfish biologist. The areas affected by the soft-shell condition include Marine Area 8-1 and a small portion of Marine Area 8-2.
Additional tests of crab shell hardness are currently under way in the area to more closely assess the progress of the molt. The next series of testing results will be available by June 1.
Unless soft-shell conditions improve dramatically, Marine Area 8-1 and the portion of Marine Area 8-2 north of a line between Camano Head (the southern tip of Camano Island) and Sandy Point on Whidbey Island will remain closed. Waters scheduled to open June 4 include the southern portion of Saratoga Passage, Port Susan, Possession Sound and Port Gardner.
Burton said WDFW will issue an emergency rule change announcing modifications or delays of the scheduled June 4 crab-fishing opener if additional testing indicates the molting cycle is still occurring in a significant portion of the region.
Emergency shellfish rule changes are posted on WDFW's website and on a toll-free hotline, at 1-866-880-5431.