SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — City officials including Mayor London Breed on Tuesday announced plans for a financial relief package to help San Francisco crabbers impacted by the massive fire at Pier 45 last month.
Mayor Breed, the San Francisco Port Commission and Supervisor Aaron Peskin said they hope the financial assistance will ensure that a crab season happens this year. Some have called it the biggest disaster the San Francisco fishing fleet has ever experienced.
More than 30 crabbers lost 8,000 crab, shrimp, and black cod traps pots during the four-alarm fire that ravaged Pier 45 on the morning of May 23. Shed C, which housed the vast majority of the crabbing community’s pots, was engulfed in flames and completely destroyed. The fire essentially brought the local crab fishing industry to a halt.
Fisherman’s Wharf is the center of Northern California’s commercial and sport fishing fleets. The San Francisco crabbing community produces almost two million pounds of Dungeness crab each year, with approximately 50 percent of all Bay Area crab flowing through Fisherman’s Wharf.
The fishing industry has been a mainstay of the San Francisco and Fisherman’s Wharf economy since the Gold Rush era. Pier 45 houses the West Coast’s largest concentration of commercial fish processors and distributors. The fish processing facilities, housed in sheds adjacent to the one destroyed in the fire, are undergoing cleaning and safety inspections.
“Many crabbers were already struggling financially due to COVID-19, and the loss of their equipment in the fire at Pier 45 has made an already challenging situation even more difficult,” said Mayor Breed in a press release. “The crabbing and fishing industry in our city is part of what makes San Francisco so special and we want to help them recover from the loss of their equipment. Our planned financial assistance will help them get back on their feet and ready for the fall crabbing season.”
“The Fisherman’s Wharf crabbing and fishing community have always been essential to San Francisco’s identity and economy,” said Supervisor Peskin. “Part of that identity is a City that knows how to take care if its own. We are asking San Franciscans who refuse to let this crisis erase all our beloved iconic institutions to dig deep and support our Pier 45 Crab Relief efforts.”
Peskin will lead a $500,000 fundraising campaign to provide a down-payment assistance funds for crabbers. The down-payment assistance will ensure crabbers can place orders immediately and obtain the pots in time for the next Dungeness crab season, expected to open this fall.
Additionally, Port of San Francisco staff is working with Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association to develop a loan payment program with favorable terms to support purchase of the pots to keep fishing community employed.
“The Port is looking forward to working with the Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Crab Boat Owners to help this historic community and keep people employed,” said Kim Brandon, President of the San Francisco Port Commission. “We know many essential workers are struggling to make ends meet and we recognize the hardship of losing equipment vital to earning a living. We need to ensure we have a crab season as our restaurants and retail along the Wharf reopen from the COVID-19 shelter in place.”
Many of the crabbers impacted by the fire have accumulated the pots that were destroyed over the course of their career, the press release noted. Replacing an entire fleet of pots at one-time is financially impractical, especially in the current economic environment of uncertainty and hardship.
Down-payment assistance grants will provide up to $40,000 for each fisher’s down payment on replacement crab traps for the upcoming Dungeness crab season. Crabbers who lost pots and traps in Shed C, are Port tenants and are active fishers will be eligible for financial support.
Production of crab traps or pots is limited to a handful of manufacturers located in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Each trap is built by hand and consists of a welded metal frame covered in a thick layer of rubber and wrapped in wire mesh. Traps range in size and shape and take several weeks to complete and ordering for this custom equipment requires advance lead-time for the manufacturers to secure materials and prepare.
The Port and OEWD will present the relief program to the Port Commission on July 14. The program will be administered by OEWD, which will provide access to down-payment assistance funds and the zero percent interest loans to the crabbers.
To access the down-payment assistance and loans, crabbers will need to complete a simple application and document their losses. Grant payments will be available within two weeks of the program’s inauguration and the receipt of a complete application. Funds made available through this program will be paired with technical assistance and will not preclude recipients from receiving grants or loans from additional city sources.
The Port of San Francisco is additionally working to identify new storage space for the crabbers and is considering a rent relief package for tenants. The Port has also written to its insurance company to see if any of this loss is eligible for insurance recovery.