HALF MOON BAY (CBS SF) – After an unprecedented delay in the season caused by a toxic algae plume, Northern California crab fisherman began stacking gear on their boats Monday in anticipation for a mad dash to the Dungeness crab fishing grounds.
A boat journeyed out to the fishing grounds early Monday, dropping its pots and capturing a test batch of Dungeness crab.
The catch was then brought back to the docks, unloaded and several were steamed so the meat could be tested and a price could be set by the suppliers.
The fishermen will gather at the various harbors where the fishing fleet is docked on Tuesday morning and vote on whether to accept or reject that price. If they accept, the race will be on to harvest as much crab as possible before mating season begins.
Last week, California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials announced the opening of both the recreational and commercial fisheries after recent tests showed that domoic acid levels in crabs caught off the coast of California south of the Mendocino-Sonoma County line no longer posed a risk to human health.
Following the announcement, the recreational Dungeness crab season in the area opened on March 18.
As local fishermen get ready for the commercial season, many are concerned that they won't be able to regain the revenue lost during the closure, according to Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations Executive Director Tim Sloane.
"There are big concerns, since a vast majority of revenue happens during the first six to eight weeks of fishing season," Sloane said, adding that fishermen "didn't get to take advantage of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Lunar New Year or the Super Bowl."
The commercial crab season was initially scheduled to start Nov. 17, but remained closed after public health officials determined crabs had high levels of domoic acid, a neurotoxin that can be harmful to humans if eaten.
Domoic acid is caused by an algal bloom.
The shutdown had caused an estimated $48 million in losses to the industry as of last month, according to state officials.
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