Washington’s coastal Dungeness crab commercial season opens Feb. 1


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News release

Contact: Matthew George, 360-640-1066
Media contact: Bridget Mire, 564-224-0845

Season to include reduced pot limits for all state fishers

OLYMPIA – Washington’s coastal Dungeness crab commercial season will open coastwide with a reduced pot limit on Feb. 1, state fishery managers announced this month.

The coastal Dungeness crab industry is one of the most important commercial fisheries in the state, particularly for coastal communities and economies. According to a recent report (PDF) by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the value of state crab landings during the 2022-23 season was $64.6 million. This is the second-highest total value recorded in the past 10 years, surpassed only by the previous season high of $88.2 million in 2021-22.

Policy representatives from the Washington, Oregon, and California fish and wildlife departments agreed to delay the season opener based on recent crab condition tests. The three departments had already agreed in December to delay the season opener from Cape Falcon to the U.S.-Canada border until at least mid-January.

WDFW conducts test fishing to determine the percentage of meat recovered from Dungeness crab starting in late October. Northern (Westport) and southern (Long Beach) stations are repeatedly sampled until meat recovery reaches 23%.

Long Beach fell below the 23% threshold in all test fishing conducted from October to January, contributing to the delayed opener. When crab condition falls below criteria, tri-state pre-season sampling protocols allow policymakers to open the season Feb. 1. Full test fishing results are available at psmfc.org/crab.

“WDFW conducted five test fisheries at the Long Beach station prior to this season,” said Coastal Shellfish Manager Matthew George. “This is the second year in a row that poor crab condition has delayed the opening within this area until February.”

Reduced pot limits will apply to all state commercial fishers coastwide. Those with permanent pot limits of 500 or 300 will be allowed to use 400 or 250 pots, respectively.

WDFW is working to replace buoy tags that belonged to WDFW-registered gear and were lost in a recent fire at the Port of Ilwaco. The Department is committed to helping ensure crabbers’ participation in the upcoming season, with a full complement of gear.

The reduced commercial pot limits will be in place south of Point Chehalis and north of Destruction Island until March 2 and between Point Chehalis and Destruction Island until further notice. WDFW fishery managers will continue to monitor indicators of crab abundance and adjust restrictions as needed.

“A pot reduction at the start of the 2023-24 season is being implemented in response to pre-season indicators of high crab abundance,” George said. “We are using this management tool to help the state meet its harvest sharing obligations with coastal treaty tribes.”

The Quinault Indian Nation’s season opened Dec. 11. Each year, WDFW works with tribal co-managers to develop harvest management agreements for the upcoming season. These agreements include provisions such as earlier seasons for the smaller tribal fleets, special management areas that are closed to state fishers, and determinations on when in-season management tools like pot limit reductions are implemented.

State season rule changes for 2023-24 include amendments regarding electronic monitoring, logbook requirements, line marking requirements, and buoy color. For details, visit the coastal commercial Dungeness crab fishery webpage.

Check out WDFW’s 2023-24 Washington Coastal Dungeness Crab Fishery Newsletter (PDF) for information on the upcoming season and a recap of last season.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities. 

Request this information in an alternative format or language at wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/requests-accommodation, 833-885-1012, TTY (711), or CivilRightsTeam@dfw.wa.gov.