Bay Area households will finally get fresh Dungeness crab this month.
The price negotiations between local crab fleets and wholesale buyers have ended, San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association President John Barnett confirmed to The Chronicle via text message Friday afternoon. He expects local crab fleets to begin setting up gear Monday and whole cooked crab to be available to locals by next Friday.
The negotiations have been centered around local crab fleets getting roughly $3 per pound for their hauls. Barnett declined to give a specific number, but said the agreed upon price is in the “high $2 range.”
Since the early 2000s, wholesale prices have usually fallen into the range of $2.50 to $3.25 per pound. California’s commercial Dungeness crab season technically began on Dec. 23, but local fishers chose not to work because the wholesale prices being offered to them were too low, saying that the price made hard for them to afford the costs of gear and fuel. Much of the attention during the negotiations was placed on Pacific Coast, a wholesale buyer on the West Coast known to dictate the wholesale market for local crabbers. Just before Christmas, Pacific Coast offered boats $2.25 per pound for their catches. Multiple fishers aware of the negotiations said the price slowly rose over the last few weeks.
While the process dragged on, local buyers missed out on fresh crab for multiple holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. These kinds of negotiations have been commonplace for the industry over the years, but this more recent round of talks happened against an unique backdrop for local fishers, one that includes profit losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The local crab industry, which can generate up to $95 million, according to the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, has struggled with delays over the last few years. The 2015-16 season started late due to the presence of domoic acid in crabs, which is a neurotoxin poisonous to humans. In 2019, the season was delayed multiple weeks because of migrating whales, and the same delay happened again in 2020 for the commercial season for the area south of the Mendocino-Sonoma county line in November.
On top of the delays, the local crab industry was rocked by a massive fire at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, where a storage facility on Pier 45 filled with gear for at least 30 tenants, was destroyed. Lost in the fire was millions worth of equipment, according to local fishers, who said the lost gear included crab pots and ropes.