How delayed Dungeness crab season is impacting Bay Area fishers, restaurants

ByRyan Curry KGO logo
Tuesday, November 21, 2023
How delayed Dungeness crab season is impacting fishers, restaurants
Bay Area fishers already reeling from canceled salmon season are struggling as CDFW delays the opening of Dungeness crab season.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Dungeness crab season is delayed again and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says it's due to poor meat quality and the need to protect humpback whales off the coast.

However, it's another hit to anglers who were already struggling after last season's delay.

Matt Jaunes spends the morning cleaning gear and making sure each of his nets has no holes in them. It's about all he can do right now while waiting for crab season to start.

RELATED: NorCal's Dungeness crab season delayed again due to poor meat quality, Fish and Wildlife says

"You got to be ready," Juanes said. "I am just making sure all the gear is lined up and in good condition. Crab is one of those things where when it starts and the gun goes off and you go, it is like the piñata. The candy drops and you better be ready."

This has been his new normal for several years now. For the fifth season in a row, commercial Dungeness crab season is delayed. The CDFW delayed the season due to bad meat quality and humpback whales off the coast. This creates a financial burden for Juanes and other fishers. Salmon season was canceled this year. Juanes relies on both for his income.

"It has been a struggle this year," he said. "This has been really tough. Salmon is about half my income, and crab is another half of my income. With the economy and everything else, it has been very difficult."

He might not be able to afford gifts for his family in time for the holidays.

MORE: Poachers taking Uber to steal Dungeness crabs from secluded Bay Area beaches

"Coming home on Christmas and not having any gifts," he said. "Oh I'll get you something down the road when you get paid, but that is the industry that we live in you know?"

He hopes the season can start soon. And he isn't the only one. Restaurants are also hoping the season opens soon. Many use fresh crab as a menu staple.

"We feature a menu of about 20 different items," said Bob Partrite, the COO of Simco restaurants at Pier 39. "People come from all over the Bay Area and around the country every year looking for the fresh Dungeness crabs."

Without fresh crab, he fears people won't eat at his restaurants. He says chefs need to get creative.

"We have to resource from elsewhere and menu modifications here and there," Partrite said. "Not offer a whole abundance of items like we used to do and hope the season opens in mid-December."

Fish and Wildlife will reassess on Dec. 8. If the whales are gone, then the season will start shortly after that. If they are still there, then the season will get delayed again.

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