My prediction is immediately before Thanksgiving.
Dungeness crab fishing is extremely important for local economies.
The start of commercial crab season may be up in the air due to early tests falling short of the required meat-to-shell ratio. Each year the DFG’s Marine Invertebrate Project tests the ratio of meat to shell because by law commercial crab season can’t start until that ratio is 25 percent.
If the season were to be delayed, local fishermen would have to once again tighten their belts after recent years of low crab harvests and no salmon fishing.
The first round of testing happened last week with crab traps set off Crescent City, Trinidad, Eureka and Fort Bragg.
The average percentage of meat to shell was 22.4 percent among the four areas, with Trinidad and Eureka crabs at 21.2 percent and 21.5 percent.
Crescent City crabs were 24.2 percent.
The 25 percent level must be met in all of the areas before crab season can start.
“It’s sort of an all or nothing deal,” said Pete Kalvass of the Marine Invertebrate Project. “The whole section from Point Arena to the Oregon border opens at the same time.”
Another test is required to determine if the North Coast crab population will reach the required plumpness by Dec 1.
“We will be testing again November 9th, 10th and 11th,” Kalvass said. “At that time we will have two data points, which will allow us to predict what things are going to look like come December.”
Kalvass did not think that the test results were unduly dire, or unusual.
“2006 looked very similar to this year,” Kalvass said. “And they filled out just fine. We’ve had to do second tests before.”
Part of the problem might be that the tests were performed earlier this year than last, Kalvass said.
“Generally speaking, if the tests are done earlier, they are more likely to run into this problem,” Kalvass said.