crabwharf.jpgTwo questions about Dungeness Crabs today!

1. What’s the average yearly haul for the local crab industry? How much of it is exported?

The California Dept. of Fish and Game conducted a California coast-wide sampling effort for the first time last year and found that more than 350,000 Dungeness crabs were taken by sport crabbers, with most of the catch coming in November and December. It’s illegal to sell sport crabs, though, so the real numbers you want are commercial: according to Fish and Game’s Pete Kalvass, 2,917,000 lbs of Dungeness crab were caught commercially in the SF Bay Area (which includes Bodega Bay and Half Moon Bay) last year.

The number of Dungeness crabs exported out of the state is somewhat of a sore subject for local fishermen, since out-of-state crabbers have started more aggressively encroaching on their territory in recent years (And no wonder why; In 2006 – “the last good year for Dungeness” according to a recent AP article – crabbers earned nearly $4.4 million, according the Fish and Game. Of that, about $3.2 million was caught in the San Francisco area. Plus, other regional harvests like salmon have been canceled or scaled back, so Dungeness crabbing has gotten more competitive). The San Francisco-based Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations couldn’t give me any specific statistics, but their director, Zeke Grader, said that “More recently we’ve seen some of these larger northern boats coming in with a tremendous numbers of traps … it means less crab to support the local fishing fleet.”

In hopes of remedying that, California has restricted the number of commercial licenses to about 600 – but there are no limits on the number of traps owned by each boat. Local crabbers are pressing for more restrictions, but the two related bills passed in recent years were vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. However, there might be hope for local trappers: State Senator Pat Wiggins (Second District representing North Bay to Eureka) has authored legislation (SB1690) establishing a Dungeness Crab Task Force.

KQED explains: “Composed of crabbers and crab processors from around California, the task force has made several recommendations including limiting pot limits, pot design and other measures to help local fishermen. The task force proposed additional amendments to the pending legislation which will impact pot limit proposals. Until this legislation works its way through committees and is signed by the governor these limits will not be in effect.”

2. What are some reliable places that sell local crabs? I live fairly close to Faletti’s and imagine their crabs are fairly local, but what about bigger chains like Luckys or Safeway? They often have crab, but I’m at a loss as to where it comes from. Any other gems to know about?

Mike Lucas, owner of North Coast Fisheries (I called that specific company because the CA Dept. of Fish and Game told me they were one of the preeminent Dungeness crab buyers), told me he sells to small specialty markets like Molly Stone’s, Andronico’s, and Tower Market – but also to Safeway, Lucky’s, and Costco.

“You can 100 percent find local crab at bigger chains,” he told me.

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