You can now buy fresh crab off the boat in San Francisco as part of new program

Photo courtesy the Port of San Francisco. 

The Port of San Francisco has announced a pilot program that will excite seafood lovers. You can now buy fresh live Dungeness crab off of fishing boats at Fisherman's Wharf. 

Just in time for New Year's, Wednesday marked the first day of off-the-boat sales from vessels along the docks off Al Scoma Way and Pier 47. 

Customers were able to grab their crab from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at this and other select locations.

The San Francisco Port Commission approved the pilot program last month to run for one year. There are five local permitted fisheries participating in the program. Health code regulations are in place, port officials said. 

One condition of the sales is that they must occur on the vessel and not on the dock, parking area, or along the wharf. 

Local fishers and eateries dependent on the Bay Area seafood industry were ecstatic as commercial crab season got off to a delayed start just one day earlier. 

"This new program will support our family-run businesses and provide the incredible experience of being able to buy directly off the boats from the fisherman who are out there on the water," Mayor London Breed said in a statement. 

The past few years have been rough for crab fishers, between the pandemic and multiple delays due to domoic acid. Supervisor Aaron Peskin added another layer to the trials of the industry. 

"Crabbers were hit hard by the double tragedy of the Pier 45 fire and the COVID shutdown," said Peskin. He co-led relief efforts with the Port.

Crab fisher Matt Juanes sold his crab for $10 a pound cash only. Despite the rain, business exceeded expectations. "I was surprised at how many people showed up and supported us. I was really shocked," he said. 

Dining on Dungeness crab has become a Bay Area holiday tradition of sorts, but the crab season delays meant there was no local crab on the table for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year. The season was delayed to help protect whale populations, so they could have more time to vacate the area as they migrate. Leatherback turtles also benefited as they could have become entangled in the fishery. 

The Port says Fisherman's Wharf has been a commercial fishing hub for more than 100 years. The pilot program offers a throwback to previous generations and a new way to get your hands on the treasured delicacy. Who knows? This could possibly be the creation of a new tradition. 

"I’m happy to have the drop and pull days finally set. Crab fisherman are hoping for a prosperous and safe season, and I’m sure the public is excited to get fresh local crabs on their table," said John Barnett, President of the Crab Boat Owners Association.

San Francisco is the largest fishing center along the California coast, according to the Port. 

Fresh off-the-boat crab will be available at Pier 47 on New Year's Eve from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Fisherman will sell crab from their vessels every Saturday starting New Year's Day.

To see the map of where you can make your crab purchase check out this link from the Port of San Francisco's website:

KTVU's Amber Lee contributed to this story.