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Oregon's long-delayed commercial Dunegness crabbing season to open next week

The Dungeness crab fishery generates about $170 million a year in revenue for the West Coast commercial fishing fleet.
Courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The Dungeness crab fishery generates about $170 million a year in revenue for the West Coast commercial fishing fleet.

Oregon’s commercial Dungeness crab season opens Jan. 15 for much of the coast after a weekslong delay.

Oregon Fish and Wildlife initially had a targeted opening date of Dec. 1, but that was delayed after pre-season tests showed crabs had too little meat yield as well as elevated levels of domoic acid, a toxin produced by algae.

The state agency says commercial crabbers can begin fishing between Cape Arago near Coos Bay up to Cape Falcon near Cannon Beach, since all crabs tested within that region have passed meat and biotoxin tests. The season will open from Cape Falcon up to Washington state on Feb. 1. More info.

Crab testing for domoic acid will continue from Cape Arago south to the California border, because recent results showed elevated levels of the biotoxin in that area. There’s also aclosure of the south coast to recreational crabbing.

Domoic acid is produced by “blooms” of certain types of marine algae. It can be harmful or even fatal to eat shellfish with high levels of domoic acid.

In a press release, the agency said commercial crabbers generally supported delaying the season, because it ensured customers would get the best Oregon crabs. It also prevented wasting crabs that yielded too little meat.

“Look, everyone wants to start Dec. 1,” said Tim Novotny of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. “But the fishermen know that this process sets a high bar on purpose, so consumers know they’re getting the highest quality and safest product possible,” he said.

The earliest the commercial crab season can open by state regulation is Dec. 1, depending on the outcome of crab meat and biotoxin test results. The season has rarely opened on that date in recent years: 2021 was the first time since 2014 the fishery opened Dec. 1.

Copyright 2023 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

April Ehrlich is JPR content partner at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Prior to joining OPB, she was a regional reporter at Jefferson Public Radio where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.