Late start to crab season proves to be not as lucrative

With the crab season finally underway, we had hoped to see the first catches come back to port Wednesday afternoon. 
But we will have to wait a bit longer. 
This year, crab season was delayed almost eight weeks, causing crabbers to lose the prime selling season.
At 8 a.m., out at sea, the first commercial Dungeness crab pots were pulled up and hopes were high. But, given what crabbers found, crabbers will be late coming back, perhaps keeping them at sea for perhaps another day. 
"We don't see huge amounts of crab out there. So, many boats may stay out for a couple of days until they get a delivery," said Sarah Bates of the Crab Boat Owners Association. 
With so many restaurants closed, it may not matter quite as much since the bulk of this season's crabs will likely be sold in stores. 
"There's no reason we won't see crab in your local grocery store and fish markets by this weekend," said Bates.
For the ever dwindling number of commercial crabbers, what they get from processors is ever more critical.
 "In a year when we don't see high abundance we can simply not afford to go fishing in a low abundance year for a low price; just not economically viable," said Bates.
Consider, that even if a crabber does not have a boat loan, which many do, other major costs are unavoidable as we learned earlier this morning. 
"You have crew to pay for. You have fuel to pay for; a thousand bucks a month for insurance just to have this thing sitting here before I even turn the key," said crabber Capt. Joe Cullen. 
Add to that, a huge bill for bait to put in the crab pots, food for the crew, permits, ever present maintenance fees and substantial dock parking fees. Just about every year, crabbers and processors lose a lot of time fighting over price.
In recent years, toxic algae has shortened or severely limited seasons. New environmental limitations assure more safety for whales, but can result in much higher costs. In recent years, including this one, crabbers have had to miss lucrative Thanksgiving and Christmas sales. 
This year, there are essentially no tourists or restaurant business. "It's getting tougher and tougher every year," said Capt. Cullen.
Then there are also storms, wind and waves. 
"Dungeness crab fishing in California, Oregon and Washington is the most dangerous job in the United States according to the CDC," said Ms. Bates. 
California's crabbing industry is a mere shadow of what it was in past decades. But like any good fisherman or woman, hope springs eternal which is why they are out there right now.