The Pacific County commercial crab fishery opening has been delayed until at least mid-December.
State shellfish managers have delayed the opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery on Washington’s southern coast to allow more time for tests to ensure that crabs are free of marine toxins.
The commercial fishery from the Columbia River north to the Willapa Bay commercial fishery was scheduled to open Dec. 1.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife delayed the opening following talks today with fishery managers in Oregon and California. Commercial crabbing will be closed along the entire Oregon coast. Public health officials in California are still evaluating domoic acid levels along the state’s northern coast.
Recent tests indicate crab caught along Washington’s ocean coast are safe to eat, but shellfish managers will conduct additional testing before opening the commercial fishery.
Recreational crabbing will remain open in all coastal waters. However, additional testing will be conducted.
The department will review test results from the state Department of Health before setting an opening date on the south coast, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for WDFW.
Ayres said he hopes the test results allow for the season to open by mid-December.
“We’re taking extra precautions due to the high volume of crab typically caught within the first weeks of the commercial opening,” he said. “We want people to feel confident the crab they buy is safe to eat.” Ayres said commercial crabbers generally support WDFW’s decision.
WDFW typically opens the area north of Klipsan Beach to state commercial crabbing later in the season in coordination with tribal co-managers. Ayres says that crab now coming into the market from tribal fisheries currently open along the central and northern Washington coast have been tested and are safe.