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Washington Coast Crabbers, Last Part of Oregon Coast Get Going Feb 1

Published 1/31/24 at 5:45 a.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Washington Coast, Last Part of Oregon Coast Crabbers Get Going Feb 1

(Ilwaco, Washington) – Once again, the coastlines of the Pacific Northwest will be full of crab boats from north to south.

The final stretch of Oregon coast waters and the entire Washington coast open up to commercial crabbing tomorrow, February 1. With both the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) signing off on it, commercial crabbing had been delayed weeks for much of the season. The most recent opening was a large chunk of north Oregon coast that finally let loose the crabbing pots on December 31 – four weeks later than the December 1 start that is normally aimed for.

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The area from Manzanita (Cape Falcon) northward to the Canadian border will see crab boats returning again.

The season also sees a reduced pot limit, WDFW said.

Crab fishery representatives from Oregon, Washington and California agreed to delay the season opener based on crab condition tests, WDFW said.

Quality of crab meat was the big concern that held up the season across the Oregon coast and Washington coast, with the meat coming in just under the quality mark back in October.

Dungeness populations along the Oregon and Washington coasts had not had enough time to fill out their meat properly.

“Northern (Westport) and southern (Long Beach) stations are repeatedly sampled until meat recovery reaches 23%,” WDFW said. “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. “


Crabbing in Westport

Coastal Shellfish Manager Matthew George said the agency conducted five tests on the south Washington, and this sees the second year in a row that poor crab conditions have delayed the season all the way into February.

It's not an easy decision for Washington and Oregon officials. WDFW said the value of state crab landings last year were at $64.6 million, which was the second-highest total recorded in the last ten years. The Dungeness crab industry is vital to the economies of both states.

Now, the season is also dealing with a devastating fire that took out thousands of crab pots at a port in Ilwaco and a lower pot limit.

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

The agency said it is working to replace buoy tags that belonged to WDFW-registered gear and were lost in the fire. Fishermen will not have to pay to get the tags again.

This season's pot reduction is happening because of harvest treaties with local 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.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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