Commercial crab fishery delayed further

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is delaying the opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in the state’s coastal waters again as they continue to allow time for crab along the West Coast to fill with more meat.

The decision was made in coordination with shellfish managers from Oregon and California, where commercial Dungeness fisheries will also remain closed.

While recent test results indicate that Washington’s coastal crab have met the minimum meat recovery level, crab in sections of the Oregon and northern California coasts have not.

Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for WDFW said Washington shellfish managers agreed to extend the delay of the state’s coastal fishery until Dec. 31.

Typically, Washington, Oregon, and California coordinate commercial Dungeness fishery openings to prevent concentrating crabbers and ensure smoothly-run fisheries.

Washington’s commercial fishery includes the area from the Columbia River north to the U.S. border with Canada and includes Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay.

Ayres noted that the latest test results indicate Washington coastal crabs remain well below the public health action level for domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae.

Crab from some areas in Oregon and California do not yet meet health standards.

“Our Oregon and California counterparts will take another look at both crab meat and toxin levels to determine which areas can open on Dec. 31,” Ayres said.

One of the state’s most lucrative fisheries, Washington’s non-tribal commercial crab fishery was valued at $52 million during the 2016-17 season.

Recreational crabbing remains open in Washington’s coastal waters and in several areas of Puget Sound.

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