‘Great’ crab is ready for eating after delayed season opening

After a more than four-month long shutdown of the local Dungeness crab fishery, members of the Bay Area crab industry held a crab feed Friday at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf to celebrate the opening of the season.

Guests at the event, held in front of the Fishermen’s and Seamen’s Memorial Chapel near Pier 45, included State Senator Mike McGuire (D-North Coast), U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Central Coast Women for Fisheries President Lori French.

Executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association Tim Sloane said in a statement:

“It’s been an incredibly difficult road for California’s crab fleet. … But the time has come to put the past in the past, and some crab on the dinner table.”

The Dungeness crab season was originally set to start in November, however the California Department of Fish and Wildlife decided to delay the season indefinitely after crab sampling detected the neurotoxin domoic acid in the crabmeat.

An algal bloom off the Pacific Coast was blamed for the high levels of domoic acid found in the crabs.

In February, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife moved to allow recreational crab fishing south of Point Reyes, but continued the closure of the commercial season.

During normal seasons, the state’s crab fishery is worth an estimated $65 million and involves the participation of roughly 600 vessels, according to the event organizers.

The season’s closure, however, caused an estimated $48 million in losses to the industry, state officials said back in February.

Last month Huffman, along with U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, announced legislation that would provide more than $138 million in disaster assistance funding for California fishermen and businesses hurt by the closure of the commercial crab season.

The legislation, called the Crab Emergency Disaster Assistance Act of 2016, would provide $138.15 million in assistance to Dungeness and rock crab fishermen and related businesses. Funding for the legislation is contingent on U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker declaring the state’s crab fishing industry a disaster and a commercial fishery failure.

President of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners’ Association Larry Collins said in a statement:

“The quality looks great, the fleet is finally back to work, and I can tell you that it will have been worth the wait.”

Both the commercial and recreational Dungeness crab seasons for the area south of the Sonoma/Mendocino County line are scheduled to end on June 30.