Dungeness delay makes markets, fishermen blue

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CHARLESON, Ore. -- There'll be no crab for Christmas this year, and no one laments this more than the fresh fish markets in Charleston.

"That revenue is just gone," said Matt Ledoux, owner of the Fishermen's Wharf on D-Dock. "You're talking all the Christmas parties, the Christmas fundraisers. We see a lot of people coming in to visit and on vacation, and they're not able to get their crab. Typically this is our busiest month for shipping (crab). It is a huge hit all the way around."

The Oregon Dungeness crab season, which normally begins Dec. 1, is delayed until Dec. 31 this year. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists determined the crab did not have sufficient meat content to meet market standards.

Although many fishermen support the decision, not wanting to catch poor quality crab that will drive the price down, the delay means lost revenue during the Christmas season.

And stormy weather is making a tough situation even tougher.

"It's pretty ugly," said Charleston-based fisherman Ron Silva. "We haven't been able to go out since a week ago Monday."

Silva fishes for sole this time of year, not crab. Sole is one of the few fish caught commercially during December, another being rock fish.

Silva said the strong winds and rain have created steep, choppy seas with tall waves that come close together. The National Weather Service predicts stormy weather and hazardous seas will continue at least through the weekend.

"Right now, the fishermen aren't bringing in a lot of anything," Ledoux said. "We've kind of been trying to fill in the gaps. We're searching for whatever we can to fill that need."

Ledoux bought a supply of live jumbo spot prawns earlier this week, which are basically a miniature lobster, he said. Those already have sold out, although he has a few packages of cooked, frozen jumbo spot prawns left.

Few boats have the permits or ability to catch the prawns, he said.

Other than that, the fish market has shrimp, scallops, smoked salmon and tuna.

"We're still here," Ledoux said. "We still have the Christmas lights on. We're still inviting people to come down, find something for a stocking stuffer or something to substitute for Christmas dinner."