The Pacific Coast commercial crab fishing season for Washington and northern Oregon has been delayed until after Christmas to give the crustaceans...

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MONTESANO, Grays Harbor County – The Pacific Coast commercial crab fishing season for Washington and northern Oregon has been delayed until after Christmas to give the crustaceans more time to mature, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said today.


The season, which typically opens Dec. 1, does not start until testing by Fish and Wildlife biologists determine the crabs meet a minimum requirement for meat inside their shells, said Heather Reed, the department’s coastal Dungeness crab manager.

The “meat recovery” threshold is 23 percent, which has not yet been met by Dungeness crabs caught for testing this fall along the coast from Cape Falcon, Ore., to the Washington-Canadian border.

Washington, Oregon and California coordinate their commercial crab fishing seasons. Testing along the Washington and northern Oregon coasts found smaller-than-average crabs in October, November and December.

The northern crabs shed their shells later than usual this year, so they were weeks behind their average meat growth, Reed said. She said a number of factors could have contributed to this late shedding and growth season, including water temperature and food availability.

The fall season in southern Oregon and California is open, as is the recreational crabbing season in Washington.

Washington’s commercial crab fishery is worth $33 million a year, and has grown over the past 10 years from an average of 9 million pounds to more than 19 million pounds a year, Reed said.

She said commercial crabbers asked for additional testing by the department to make sure the season wouldn’t open until the crabs were large enough. The next testing is scheduled Dec. 20.