Oregon crabbing delayed again by biotoxins

Public health is the primary concern, said ODFW spokesperson Caren Braby

A pot filled with crabs is hauled in during the start of the Dungeness crab season, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
A pot filled with crabs is hauled in during the start of the Dungeness crab season, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For the second year in a row, another surge of algae bloom will keep the commercial crabbing season from starting on time.

Recreational crabbing from Tillamook Head to the California border was closed around November 20. Last year commercial crabbing was closed for a month. There is hope this year’s closure won’t last as long.

“Over the last year we have developed a biotoxin monitoring plan,” said Caren Braby, the Marine Resources Program Manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “So we have worked out some of the details when we text biotoxins and what we do when we find that they have high levels.”

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the closure of recreational crabbing due to elevated levels of domoic acid. This includes Dungeness and red rock crabs harvested in estuaries, bays, off docks, piers, jetties and the ocean.

Crabbing boats in Newport, Oregon, file. (KOIN)
Crabbing boats in Newport, Oregon, file. (KOIN)

All the boats are docked now, but the crabbers who spoke with KOIN 6 News said it’s not all negative.

Dungeness crabber Chris Retherford, who’s been in it all his life, said, “Seventy percent of the crab that is harvested is harvested in the first month of the season, so we get in and out.”

Caren Braby, the Marine Resources Program Manager for ODFW, said they chose “to delay the start of the fishery from December 1.”

Their primary concern is public health, she said.

“Our secondary concern is making sure the crab is tasty and of sufficient quality to put on the market. We want Oregon consumers and consumers worldwide to have confidence in the Oregon crab product.”

Retherford and his family’s bright orange boat, Excalibur, is sitting in a Newport dock.

Lt. Andy Roberts holds up a crab during the start of the Dungeness crab season. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Lt. Andy Roberts holds up a crab during the start of the Dungeness crab season. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

“Mother and father purchased the boat and my dad ran it and me and my older brother worked on the deck with my dad as the captain,” he said. For Retherford, the delay means no fishing at the moment.

“There are 355 active crab permits in Oregon and that’s with 4 people on each boat with a permit. So that is a lot of jobs and a lot of people not making money,” he said. “The industry and the state are very good at working together. That way we bring the best quality crab to the market place.

“We sit here and wait and wait for the crab to clean up to ensure we have a good quality crab to hit the market,” he told KOIN 6 News. “Any time there is a delay out, it does affect the community — not just the guys on the boats, but the shops, the stores, the whole community.”

Public health is also the primary concern of the crabbers.

“When you’re heading to the market and buying crab,” he said, “you don’t need to worry that you’ll get sick from this crab.”