Oregon crab season reporting slow start

Wildlife officials say numbers are down but quality is up

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CHARLESTON, Ore. — The Oregon commercial Dungeness Crab season hit the two-week mark Monday. While it is still very early, the indications are that the preseason predictions about a season of mixed blessings were accurate.

Hugh Link, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, said 4.2 million pounds of crab have been accounted for, so far. The "so far" was added for two reasons. First, it can sometimes take quite a bit of time to get the numbers through the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife system. Secondly, the ODFW moved into a new office in Salem this summer and Link said he was told by staff that some of their mail has been misdirected.

"There are still boats out there fishing and they're still pulling in crab," Link said by phone Monday.

He said the average cost of the crab has risen 10 cents since the start of the season and is currently going for about $2.75 per pound.

According to the ODFW website, the commercial Dungeness crab landings have averaged 16.1 million pounds per season over the past 20 years. A record-high 33.5 million pounds were landed in the 2004-05 season.

Just two weeks in, it seems as though the final numbers for this season may come in a little below average. But, as Link points out, even for a top-heavy fishery, the season is still young.

Typically, he says, the first eight to 10 weeks of the season bring in about 80 percent of the crab in Oregon.

"It does appear that the South Coast is pretty light this year," he admits, adding that it appears the majority may come from Newport, and farther north, this season.

The good news is that the crab that is being brought in continues to draw rave reviews.

"From what I've heard," Link said, "the quality of crab is exceptional this year. So, keep your eyes open for the crab in the markets, and get it while it's fresh."