OLYMPIA - Washington and Oregon fisheries managers agreed to delay by two weeks the opening of the coastal commercial Dungeness crab season north of Oregon's Cape Lookout for conservation reasons, it was announced today.
The season had been scheduled to open on Dec. 1 along the Washington and northern Oregon coasts. Similar crab fisheries off the central and southern Oregon coast and the California coast will open as scheduled.
A decision to postpone the Washington and northern Oregon season opening until Dec. 15 was made following two test fisheries which indicated a large percentage of the crabs had not recovered from their molt cycle and were too soft to harvest.
Such a condition typically results in a high mortality and wastage of the crab before it reaches market, according to fisheries biologists.
Under regulations adopted by the two states, crab harvesters will be allowed to put pots in the water beginning at 8 a.m. on Dec. 12. However, harvesters may not have crab in their possession until 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 15.
State fishery officials sampled crabs off the northern Oregon and Washington coasts in late October and mid-November to determine whether crab meat would reach the quality goal of 23 percent meat by weight by the season starting date. Final results of the November test indicated that it could not be reasonably assumed that the crab would exceed the 23 percent threshold needed to assure a high-quality product to the consumer. Crab meat quality is measured by cooking the crab and comparing the whole crab weight to the weight of the meat "picked out" of the shell.
The coastal crab fishery has been good the past two seasons.
This past season Washington crab fishers harvested 16.5 million pounds of crab, up from 9.8 million pounds the previous year. The long-term annual average for Washington crab fishers is 8.5 million pounds. In Oregon, dungeness crab landings of 15.7 million pounds fetched a record $31.3 million last year.