By: Susan Chambers – December 22, 2015 (

After a month-long delay, Oregon and Washington fishermen will be able to start harvesting Dungeness crab in January. Crabbers will be able to set their gear on Jan. 1 and start delivering crab to processors on Jan. 4.

Domoic acid testing in early December in southern Oregon showed levels that were safe but trending upward so managers – with industry input – decided to delay the whole Oregon coast and southern Washington coast fishery.

Testing now shows the toxin trend is going down in not only crab but also in other fish and shellfish in both Oregon and Washington.

California crabbers, though, will remain tied to the dock for some time yet. Testing in California tends to be more sporadic and unscheduled. There is no clear date when the central California season or northern California season will open.

Some advisers on Oregon industry call with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Monday recommended Oregon open before Washington, even if by a few days. But the majority recommended opening at the same time. Earlier in the month, Washington delayed its season in cooperation with Oregon, they said. Others reasoned that if both states opened concurrently, it might provide consumers with added confidence that Dungeness crab are toxin-free.

“Along with the state agencies, the Oregon commercial Dungeness crab industry has taken a very proactive and precautionary approach to the opening of this crab season in the interest of public safety,” ODFW Marine Resources Program Manager Caren Braby said.

Washington’s commercial fishery opening includes the waters from the mouth of the Columbia River north to Destruction Island as well as Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay. Crabbers can set their pots in this area on Jan. 1. The area north of Destruction Island will open later in coordination with tribal co-managers.

As the season gets underway, state agencies will continue to monitor marine biotoxins in shellfish to ensure the concentrations remain below the alert level to ensure the consumer safety.

State-supervised price negotiations between fishermen and processors are set for Dec. 22 and possibly Dec. 23 as well.

Some processors said after the industry conference call that they likely would eviscerate and section most of the crab coming in during the first part of the season and shift to whole-cooked crab later.

A few fishermen were concerned no live buyers were on the Oregon call to add perspective about the live market and what would happen if further testing shows an increase in domoic acid after the season starts.

Re-printed with permission of

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