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Why Bay Area Diners Should Be Buying Fresh Dungeness Crab Directly From the Boat

Northern California fishermen say processors are offering $3 a pound for Dungeness crab, which is lower than the price being offered in Oregon

Live Dungeness crab getting weighed
Dungeness crab season in San Francisco is here, but local fishers say low prices are a problem.
Patricia Chang
Lauren Saria is the editor of Eater SF and has been writing about food, drinks, and restaurants for more than a decade.

Much to the delight of Bay Area crab lovers, the local commercial crabbing season finally kicked off — after months of delays — on Thursday, January 18. But it’s a bittersweet start for California’s commercial crabbers, who say they’re frustrated with the low price crab processors are offering for their catches. The Times-Standard reports that California crabs are fetching a starting price of just $3 per pound, which is lower than what crab processors in Oregon are paying. “No one is happy with the fact that the processors are still paying more in Oregon than they are in California,” Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association president Harrison Ibach told the Times-Standard.

Customers who want to support local fishermen can buy crabs directly from the boat. In San Francisco, crab lovers can head to Fisherman’s Wharf for off-the-boat fish and crab sales. The Off the Boat Sales Facebook page also has updated information about the availability of fresh crabs; according to a post from January 20, all crabbers selling off the boat are charging $10 per pound. Diners can also ask restaurants if they’re sourcing their Dungeness crabs from local fishers.

While the crabbing season in the waters around the San Francisco Bay Area only opened last week, commercial crabbing opened in the northern part of the start on January 5. But fishers in Humboldt County chose not to hit the water, instead going on strike to try to negotiate higher prices for their hauls. “They offered us a lower price down here — with stipulations it could go lower — and we decided that it probably wasn’t a good idea to fish for that,” fisherman Kevin Pinto told KRCR-TV in early January.

At the time, crabbers in the northern part of the state warned that if the crabbing season opened in the waters farther down the coast, it could undermine their negotiation efforts. “If San Francisco goes in the middle of the month, then, you know, we might not have a leg to stand on for price,” Eureka-based fisherman Jake McMaster told KIEM-TV. Indeed, it now seems California crabbers have been unsuccessful in organizing to get a higher price as the season opened in San Francisco. “Fishermen need to figure out a way to make some sort of significant change because as of right now, the majority of the power is the processors and it leads to a lot of frustration amongst the fishing industry,” Ibach told the Times-Standard.