Start of commercial Dungeness crab season will be delayed again

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COOS BAY — The start of the commercial Dungeness crab season has been delayed for the third year in a row, but the industry figurehead says that’s all part of the plan.

Under guidelines established by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, Oregon, Washington and California conduct preseason weighing of legal-sized adult crab caught at test locations along the coast to determine whether they are large enough to harvest.

According to Hugh Link, director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, the delays are necessary to ensure consumers get a lot of meat for their dollar — and that fishermen get a lot of dollars for their meat.

“The fuller they are of meat, the better they are for the consumer and for the fisherman,” Link said.

The director explained that crabs weighed for the testing are supposed to be at least 25 percent meat by weight.

“Usually, when we get to the 24.5 percent fill rate, they round up,” Link said.

According to the preseason testing protocols finalized in September, fishery managers on the South Coast use crab caught at Winchester Bay, Coos Bay, Floras Creek, Port Orford, Pistol River and the Oregon-California border to gauge the meat percentage of the region’s crab fishery.

The commercial Dungeness season was delayed in 2011 and 2012.

In the latter case, the season opener was pushed back all the way to Dec. 30 when subsequent testing showed crab in Northern California and southern Washington were still light on meat at the beginning of the month.

According to the crab commission, average annual landings for the state fall in the ballpark of 10 million pounds.