Commercial crab fishing season will start Monday, Jan. 11, in the Half Moon Bay area after local fishermen reached an agreement with seafood companies on crab prices late Friday.

The agreement means local Half Moon Bay fisherman will sell fresh crab on Johnson Pier at Pillar Point Harbor as early as Friday, Jan. 15. Local stores could see fresh crab arrive that weekend, according to Half Moon Bay fisherman Frank Souza.

“We’re excited to get it started and stop all the phone calls and the stuff we are not good at,” Souza said.

Fishing associations representing San Francisco, Bodega Bay and Half Moon Bay have reached a gentlemen’s agreement not to start setting down nets and gear in fishing waters until 8 a.m. Monday and will not pull up nets until 8 a.m. Wednesday. The fishermen in the Bay Area reached an agreement to not start right away on Friday to give small boats more of a chance to compete against bigger boats and crews who have an advantage. The fishing associations are as unified and strong as ever before after negotiating and working together, Souza said.

California allowed commercial crab season to begin Dec. 23, following a monthlong delay to protect whales feeding off the California coast. However, the fleets in Half Moon Bay and the entire Bay Area have spent the last few weeks in negotiations with seafood companies. Negotiations had been going on for weeks with little success. The breakthrough came on Friday when the fishermen and seafood companies reached an agreement.

“It’s nice to be done with that part and focused on what we do best,” said Porter McHenry, president of the Half Moon Bay Seafood Marketing Association.

Both sides reached a baseline agreement of $2.75 a pound for crab, McHenry said. Some fishing associations, like the Half Moon Bay Seafood Marketing Association, originally wanted $3 a pound. Seafood processors were only offering $2.25 a pound. The various fishermen associations accepted the $2.75 a pound deal as it got them back out fishing and relieved pressure on fishermen who came down to the Bay Area from other parts of the West Coast and California to fish. The $2.75 price per pound can still go up if demand goes up for crab or there is less crab volume.

“It’s so hard to relax when you are in the middle of negotiations, and you are not sure of what your future holds,” McHenry said

The late start of the season means worse weather and potentially more dangerous conditions. However, after long negotiations, delays due to environmental wildlife concerns in November and changes due to COVID-19, everyone is just excited to get started and bring back crab.

“It almost seems like the fishing is the easy part,” McHenry said.

Although it’s impossible to tell what the volume of crab will be like, McHenry said it would likely be a mediocre season. Despite the challenges, McHenry is glad to start fishing for crab off Half Moon Bay for another season.

“We want to thank the public for eating crab,” he said.

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