Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
Fishermen Chris Killen and Jonathan Han, behind, loaded pots onto the boat on Thursday in preparation for the start of commercial crab season.
At precisely 12:01 a.m. hundreds of fisherman off the Half Moon Bay coast began to reel in the first commercially caught crab of the season. It’s been a tiring few days for the fishermen who’ve been hauling crab pots and gear onto their boats before setting out to drop their lines as early as 6 a.m. Thursday.
“The energy on the docks has been electric the past few weeks,” said John Schulz, commercial fisherman and captain of Krabmandu.
The public might be able to start purchasing crab as fresh as a few hours old straight off the boats at Pillar Point Harbor as early as Saturday.
“Off the boat fish sales is a great connection between the fisherman, the ocean and the families that buy the crab,” said Pietro Parravano, a San Mateo County harbor commissioner who advocates for coastal communities.
Much work has gone into sustaining coastal resources and supporting the local fishing communities throughout the state in the last few years.
This is the first season a state-mandated crab pot limit is in effect since Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 369 in 2011. There are now seven permitting tiers that a fisherman qualifies for based on the pounds of fish they caught between 2003 and 2008. The most pots a boat can throw out is 500.
“It redistributes the wealth so a guy like me who has a small boat can compete,” said Schulz.
Jim Anderson, captain of the Allaine, is a commercial crab and salmon fisherman who is involved in advocating for the local fishing community. About 80 percent of the coastwide fleet wanted the law passed, Anderson said.
The number of pots being used crept up over the years and the harvests became shorter and shorter, Parravano said.
“We were seeing that there’s been such an endless number of traps that are being used by the boats. Some were using up to 2,000 traps. If you think about sustaining the resource, the Dungeness crab population couldn’t withstand such a harvest at that rate,” Parravano said.
This law was needed to sustain the coastal community. Crab season is what gets many fishermen and their families through the winter, Parravano said.
Traveling to find the catch is part of the lifestyle and some fishermen on larger boats head down from Oregon and Washington because the season starts earlier here, Anderson said. It’s a lot more effort to move traps further out, especially on smaller boats, so many locals will stay close to home, Anderson said.
Before the pot limits, it was like an arms race, everyone would just buy and drop as many pots as they possibly could, Anderson said. It will take some time to see how the new program works and the fishing community will meet with policy makers next year to discuss the outcome of the first season, Anderson said.
The fishermen are hopeful for this season, particularly those with smaller boats who feel like they’ve finally gotten a leg up. But it all comes down to Mother Nature and what kind of weather will unfold. The trap limit has eased some of the tension, but the biggest obstacles for fishermen are price points and the weather, Parravano said.
The price per pound won’t be determined until the crab make it to shore and can change throughout the season depending on the turnout, Anderson said. Using the new FishLine app tells customers who’s selling what and when, plus people may even be able to pre-order crab from certain fishermen, Anderson said.
For more information on the FishLine app email info@phondini or call (650) 479-4624.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106