Getting crab on the table for Christmas

Rising uncertainty in the crab fishery is taking a toll, however, a function in part of shifting ocean conditions but also of growing public alarm about unintentional whale and other animal entanglements frequently linked to crabbing gear. For many crabbers, the outlook is daunting, likely to result in greater costs and increased restrictions. “Nothing is normal, like it used to be,” said Danny Kammerer, 76, who sold his boat last year but still crews for others from time to time.

Like the rest of the crabbing industry, the Bodega Bay commercial fleet — about 40 vessels these days — has always operated at the whim of the weather and whatever Mother Nature is cooking up in the iconic fishery, where the crab population rises and falls cyclically and shifts around, to a certain extent, along the northern coastline. But in general terms, the harvest has increased in recent decades, driven by demand in Asia and lucrative stateside holiday markets beginning with Thanksgiving, just after the traditional mid-November season start, and continuing through Christmas, New Year’s Day and Chinese New Year. California landings peaked in the 2011-12 season at nearly 32 million pounds statewide valued at $95.5 million off the boat, nearly all of it harvested from the Bay Area north, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Even with some decline since then, annual commercial landings in Bodega Bay come to about $10 million off the boat.

Photo by Alvin Jornada. Mary Callahan's complete Press Democrat story can be found HERE.