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Local fishermen, businesses impacted by delay of Dungeness crab fishing season

Posted at 7:13 PM, Nov 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-07 23:58:44-05

In an effort to try and limit whale and turtle entanglements in fishing gear, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife pushed back the start of Dungeness crab season this year.

It's a season that has already been cut by two-and-a-half months and for some fishermen, it's becoming harder to keep their businesses afloat.

"Could you go home and take a week off with no pay? Or two weeks, or three months like we're forced to? Not very many people can,” said Lori French.

French and her husband own a fishing boat in Morro Bay. Their main catch is Dungeness crab.

French says with the season becoming months shorter, and now being delayed another week, it’s been difficult for their business as they have fewer than 20 weeks out of the year to fish.

"About 17 weeks to make probably 75 to 85 percent of our income for the year and that's a lot of pressure. A lot of pressure on everybody. Nobody wants to be underneath that,” French said.

Local fishermen being set back a week has forced some businesses in the area to make some changes.

Instead of getting their crab fresh from the docks just hundreds of feet away, they look to other states for help.

Doing so can increase prices for customers.

"If we have to source it from out of state, whether it's Oregon or Washington, typically it drives the prices up a little bit. We have trucking costs to incur. Sometimes we have plane costs if we want to fly things in from Alaska,” said Giovanni DeGarimore, owner of Giovanni’s Fish Market.

DeGarimore says the out-of-state Dungeness crab currently in stock costs $12 a pound.

When it's local, that price drops below $10, even as low as $6 a pound.

"When the crab is local, it's a little bit cheaper and we do see that sales go up because a two-pound crab at $6 a pound is about 12 bucks. A two-pound crab at $12 a pound is about $25 bucks. That's a 100 percent difference in price to the consumer,” DeGarimore said.

French says making up for lost time is going to be a challenge.

"We can not afford to lose any day where there's good weather right now, not in this short of season,” French said.

The new official start date in California for the commercial fishing of Dungeness crab is November 22, right before one of the busiest times of the year for fishermen, Thanksgiving.