BODEGA BAY (KPIX 5) — Crab fishermen in the Bay Area who have already had to endure a mid-May closure of crab fisheries and a drop in restaurant demand due to COVID this year are facing yet another challenge with a delay to the start of the crabbing season.
It was announced Wednesday that the commercial crabbing season would delayed until December 1st. Whales and sea turtles are lingering just off the coast in prime crabbing grounds. The delay is to allow time for the whales and turtles to move on and not get tangled in crab trap lines.
Crab fishermen faced the same delay last November due to too many whales being in the area, putting a damper on the 2019 season. The presence of whales and sea turtles last spring caused the mid-May closure, which many fishermen protested in April.
It’s something Spud Point Crab Company Owner Tony Anello says no one wants.
“No! We don’t want to entangle a whale. We’re doing everything we can, shortening our gear up and using non-leaded lines,” said Anello. “We’re doing everything we possibly can, short of closing the season.”
Cal Fish and Wildlife counted 50 whales on a recent aerial survey, 30 more than the allowed 20 per day.
Anyone who was looking forward to crab for the Thanksgiving will be disappointed.
“No Thanksgiving market,” said Anello.
Thousands of traps are sitting on shore waiting for the start of the season. Commercial fishing boats remain tied to their slips. Meanwhile, fishermen are spending money, working on their boats without any income.
“To endure that, it’s tough financially. It’s tough for all of us,” said Dick Ogg, who owns and operates the fishing vessel Karen Jeanne out of Bodega Bay.
This latest hardship comes on top of the other financial disasters for Bay Area crab fishermen, even beyond the hit that the coronavirus pandemic dealt the restaurant industry starting in March that decimated demand for many restaurant suppliers.
A massive fire at San Francisco’s Pier 45 back in May destroyed a warehouse holding the fishing gear for half the city’s crab fleet.
The current planned late opening for crabbing season on December 1st is not guaranteed. If the whales are still hanging around then, the season will be delayed even more.
The effects will help keep whales safe, but would ripple through the Bay Area fishing community said Ogg.
“Everybody will have an issue,” he explained. “The community, the fishermen, the processors. I mean, everybody.”