Commercial Dungeness crab value has record year

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COOS BAY, Ore. — The commercial Dungeness crab fishing season officially closes at midnight tonight, but the numbers are not likely to change much at this point.

Hugh Link, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness crab commission, says it is proving to be a unique season, and that is a very good thing.

Over the past decade, Oregon commercial crab fishermen have averaged landing about 20 million pounds of crab. This year's numbers are expected to end below average at about 14.35 million pounds.

"That said," Link said, "our value to the fishery is over $49.7 million to the (Oregon) fishermen, which is the highest value I can find on record."

He noted that even in a prior season, that was one of the best years for landings, with fishermen bringing in more than 33 million pounds of crab, the value to fishermen for that season was at $49.4 million.

"So (this season) was a good, good year value-wise," he said.

Breaking the numbers down further, the town of Charleston brought in about 2.8 million pounds of Dungeness. That translates into more than $10 million for local fishermen in the 2013-14 season, which officially began Dec. 16.

Link noted that the commercial crab fishery is cyclical and hard to predict, over one stretch of years the average landings were at 10 million pounds. So, it was not a surprise to find the numbers down a little bit, but the financial windfall was unexpected when the fishermen first started dropping their crab pots last December.

One reason for the surge, he says, is the old law of supply and demand. Another reason has to do with where that demand was coming from.

"There seems to be quite a bit of export of the Dungeness this year," Link said.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the (final) numbers, but there appears to have been quite a bit of export to China."