SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — For the first time ever, people looking for fresh Dungeness crab will be able to buy it directly from local fishermen off their boats beginning Wednesday.

The Port of San Francisco announced the live Dungeness crab sales from fishing vessels in Fisherman’s Wharf would begin at 3 p.m.

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The pilot program was first proposed in October as an expansion of a current program allowing retail fish sales from commercial fishing vessels at the wharf which began in 2017. Crab was excluded from the original program to avoid competition with existing crab stands in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. However, the COVID pandemic forced crab stands to close and while some stands have since returned, the expansion of the program would not included cooked crab.

The San Francisco Port Commission voted to authorized the off-the-boat crab sales for a one-year pilot program on November 9.

“The kickoff of San Francisco’s commercial crab season is a highlight for so many of us, especially with it coming just in time for New Year’s Eve,” said Mayor London Breed in a prepared statement. “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. We hope buying direct from the boat will be the start of a new tradition for residents and visitors, and yet another reason to come on down to Fisherman’s Wharf and celebrate San Francisco.”

Currently, there are five permitted fishers participating in the program. Only whole, uncooked crab and fish (gilled and gutted) are permitted to be sold and must be from the vessel; no stands are allowed on the dock, wharf or parking lots.

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“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 Crab Boat Owners Association President John Barnett in a prepared statement. “Good for the consumer, the fishermen, and the environment. They can also be purchased the same way as before at your favorite grocery store or fish market.”

Participating vessels and their locations will be listed on the Port’s website.

The beginning of the commercial crab fishing season was delayed this again this year as part of an effort to protect whales and other endangered species such as leatherback turtles from entanglements in the fishery.

The expansion of the retail fish sale program is expected to help San Francisco’s fishing industry to recover from the COVID
pandemic and departure of tourists from Fisherman’s Wharf as well as from the effects of the massive Pier 45 fire in May 2020 that destroyed thousands of fishermans’ crab traps and other fishing gear stored inside.

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