Posts Tagged Dungeness crab

Aug 5 2018

Trump tariffs sting farmers, businesses from sea to shining sea

The administration’s aid package has been popular with voters, particularly in rural areas, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

 

As President Donald Trump prepares to continue ratcheting up tariffs, the duties he has already imposed on $34 billion worth of goods from China and around $50 billion worth of steel and aluminum exports from around the world are causing pain across the United States.

That’s already prompted Trump to promise $12 billion in assistance to help farmers who have been hit with retaliatory duties on their exports to China, the European Union and other key markets. The aid package has been popular with voters, particularly in rural areas, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. But the same poll also showed that most voters in farm states prefer free trade and better access to markets over subsidies.

So far, the administration has no plans to extend that aid to other adversely affected sectors, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated this week could cost another $27 billion.

Here’s a roundup of some of the complaints about Trump’s tariffs heard on Capitol Hill in recent weeks:

KANSAS — $361 million of exports threatened by retaliatory tariffs

China’s retaliatory tariffs on nearly all agricultural imports from the United States have hurt Kansas farmers like Stacey and David Forshee, who raise cattle and grow soybeans, corn and wheat on their farm in the north-central part of the state, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said last week during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing.

“All told, it has been estimated that $361 million of Kansas exports are being threatened by various tariffs” imposed by China, the EU, Canada and Mexico in response to Trump’s actions, he said.

NEW HAMPSHIRE — Lost sales of mead, lobster

Moonlight Meadery, a small business based in Londonderry, N.H., “had a deal effectively killed by the retaliatory tariffs on American wine,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said. “This is a deal that would have doubled their output. For a small business that meant a lot. But what’s happened, they’ve had to lay off employees and they’ve also been hit by the increased cost of aluminum because of the tariffs on steel and aluminum.”

Another New Hampshire business, Little Bay Lobster Company, that previously sold 50,000 pounds of lobster to China each week “can no longer find a buyer,” Shaheen added. After the Trump administration slapped a 25 percent duty on $34 billion worth of Chinese exports, China retaliated with a 25 percent tariff that priced New Hampshire lobsters out of the market, Shaheen said.

Another business in her state, Intelligent Manufacturing Solutions Corp., expects to lose a $5 million circuit-board contract to a Chinese competitor because of Trump’s tariffs, Shaheen added.

TENNESSEE — Canceled home appliance plant expansion

Electrolux, a home appliance manufacturer, canceled a $250 million plant expansion in Springfield, Tenn., because of Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said.

Bush Brothers and Company, best known for its canned baked beans, has experienced an 8 percent decline in its revenue because of higher steel prices. Another Tennessee company that manufactures gas grills is taking a loss on every sale they make to Canada and EU because of Trump’s tariffs, Alexander added.

MAINE — Bleacher manufacturer caught in a price squeeze

Hussey Seating Co., a bleacher manufacturer based in North Berwick, Maine, has seen prices for steel increase 45 percent over the past year as a result of Trump’s tariffs. “And the problem is that this small manufacturer has locked in contracts, well before beginning a project that did not anticipate a 45 percent increase in the cost of steel,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said.

Maine’s lobster industry, which is the state’s biggest exporter, has also taken a big blow as a result of retaliatory tariffs imposed by China, Collins added. To make matters worse, Canada now has a free trade agreement with the European Union that gives it duty-free access to the EU market, while Maine lobstermen still face tariffs of 8 to 30 percent, Collins said.

ALASKA — Salmon, cod and shellfish jobs put at risk

China’s 25 percent retaliatory tariff on U.S. seafood has “clearly rattled my state,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said. The increased duty affects about 40 percent of the state’s salmon exports and 54 percent of its cod exports that went to China last year, she said.

“So this is, this is very, very significant to us. We’re still trying to figure out exactly what this means, not only to our fishermen but to the processors, the logistics industry, all aspects of the seafood supply chain,” Murkowski said.

In addition, Trump’s threat to impose a 10 percent duty on another $200 billion of Chinese exports could boomerang back on Alaska.

“Many of our fish and shellfish that are harvested in the state are then processed in China before re-importing back to the United States for domestic distribution. So in many ways, [Trump’s additional proposed tariffs would impose] a 10 percent tax on our own seafood, which is just a tough one to reconcile,” Murkowski said.

ARKANSAS — Hardwood lumber mills losing China sales

Hardwood lumbers mill in the Southern United States are also under pressure because of Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on China. The nation is the largest overseas market for U.S. hardwood lumber, but sales “essentially have ceased” since Trump’s duties went into effect, Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) said.

“Prices are in freefall, markets have collapsed, mills will be closing unless the situation is resolved fairly soon,” Boozman said, noting that the hardwood mills are the primary source of employment in many rural communities across the South.

WEST VIRGINIA — Auto supply chain vulnerabilities

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said she was worried about harm of new steel and aluminum tariffs on a Toyota production facility in Buffalo, W. Va., that employs 1,600 workers. But the effect could be even worse if Trump follows through on plans to impose automotive tariffs because parts made in the state cross the border with Canada at least two times.

“The raw aluminum comes from Canada. It goes to a Toyota plant in Tennessee that makes the engine block. The engine block then comes to West Virginia, where we make, very well, the six-cylinder engines and additions to the transmissions. Then half of those engines go from West Virginia back to Canada, where they are dropped into Lexus RX and then brought into this country for sale,” Capito said.

DELAWARE — Prospect of lost chicken sales to South Africa

After years of pressure, the Obama administration persuaded South Africa to remove barriers to U.S. poultry exports. Now all that progress is at the risk of being lost because Trump hit South Africa with tariffs on its steel exports, said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).

“I had a very difficult meeting with their trade minister,” Coons said. “They’re going to be justified in imposing countervailing duties that may well close the door to this newly opened market for our poultry.”

WASHINGTON STATE — Apples, cherries and pears caught in the crossfire

Not long after Trump imposed tariffs on Chinese-made steel and aluminum, Beijing began insisting on inspecting all shipments of U.S.-produced apples, making it impossible for Washington suppliers to continue to trade, Cass Gebbers, president and CEO of Gebbers Farms in Brewster, Wash., told Congress in July.

While that situation improved after a while, China has boosted tariffs on U.S. apples, pears and cherries to 50 percent, from 10 percent previously, in response to duties imposed by Trump. That jeopardizes about $130 million in cherry sales, $50 million in apple sales and $1.5 million in pear sales to the Asian market, Gebbers said.

TEXAS — Hitting cattle and dairy farmers at a bad time

“With Texas relying so heavily on trade overseas, we are concerned with the blowback from the administration’s decision to place tariffs on our trading partners,” Russell Boening, a dairy and cattle producers from Poth, Texas, said in testimony to Congress.

“Agriculture is bearing the brunt of retaliation at a time when farmers are already facing low commodity prices, high input costs and unpredictable weather. Net farm income has also dropped 52 percent in the last five years, making it extremely difficult for farmers and ranchers to continue operating,” Boening added.

MINNESOTA — Three biggest agricultural export markets threatened by tariffs

Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau told Congress about how much farmers in his state rely on its three biggest markets: Canada, Mexico and China. In 2016, agricultural and food exports accounted for nearly one-third of Minnesota’s total merchandise exports,” he said. “Specifically, more than 24 percent of all Minnesota agricultural exports go to Canada and nearly 24 percent of all Minnesota agricultural exports go to Mexico.”

He stressed that the better course of action would be to expand, rather than contract, trade. “The current tariffs, continuing back-and-forth retaliatory actions and trade uncertainties are hitting American agriculture from all sides and are causing us to lose our markets,” he added. “Once you lose a market, it is really tough to get it back.”

MONTANA — Indebted young farmers worried about the future

Farmers just starting out are already feeling discouraged when they see gluts and falling prices. That is going to make it harder to motivate the next generation, several producers have noted.

“For young and beginning farmers like me the stakes are even higher,” said Michelle Erickson-Jones, president of the Montana Grain Growers Association. “We are often highly leveraged, just establishing our operations, as well trying to ensure we have access to enough capital to successfully grow our operations. Increased trade tensions and market uncertainty makes our path forward and our hopes to pass the farm on to our sons less clear.”

NEW JERSEY — Bitten by South Korean steel quota restrictions

South Korea was one of the few countries that escaped Trump’s new 25 percent duty on steel, but only because it agreed to restrict its exports to the United States at 70 percent of the average levels for 2015 to 2017. That has created a huge headache for Micro, a precision medical-device manufacturer based in Somerset, N.J.

“Let me be blunt: For Micro, this quota is catastrophic,” the company’s president, Brian Semcer, said in testimony. “Under a best-case scenario, the quota would limit Micro’s steel imports to 70 percent of our recent yearly average. That would mean a 30 percent loss of market share and would effectively bar us from helping our customers develop and introduce any new products or expanding our operations in the foreseeable future.”

MARYLAND — Forking out big bucks, and time, for tariff exclusion requests

Companies that rely on imported steel can receive an exclusion from the new steel and aluminum tariffs, if they can prove to the Commerce Department that no domestic steel company can manufacture the product they need. That’s turned out to be a costly and frustrating experience for many manufacturers, including Independent Can Company, a family-owned business based in Belcamp, Md.

Company President Rick Huether told Congress his company has spent over $50,000 internally for employees to prepare 40 exclusion request. “This represents over 500 hours which could have been time spent building the business versus defending the business,” he said.

FLORIDA — Frustrated by government bureaucrats

Other companies complain of their treatment by Commerce Department officials assigned to decide whether their exclusion request will be approved. That was the experience of Sanitube, a family-owned manufacturer based in Lakeland, Fla., that makes stainless steel tubes, valves and fittings for use in the food and beverage processing industry.

After its first exemption request was denied, Sanitube spent three weeks unsuccessfully trying to contact department officials by both phone and emails to find out why, company president Todd Adams told Congress.

Finally, the company asked for help from Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), which led to a phone call from Matthew Borman, the deputy assistant secretary of Commerce for export administration. Although Borman did explain the mistake the company made in its paperwork, Sanitube still had to start the exclusion process again.

Adams also complained about difficult interactions with one Commerce Department staffer, whom he accused of a “lack of professionalism” because of the way he handled Sanitube’s exclusion request.


Original post: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/08/01/trumps-tariffs-sting-farmers-businesses-from-sea-to-shining-sea-717555

Aug 1 2016

Consider the Crab

 

Lori French, the daughter-in-law of a crab fisherman, the wife of another, and the mother of a third, placed two large bowls on a table. The one labeled “California” sat empty. The other, reading “Oregon,” was filled to the brim with bright-lavender-and-orange Dungeness crabs. It was early February, the night before the annual hearing of the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture at the state capitol, and French, who’s the president of a nonprofit called Central Coast Women for Fisheries, had organized a banquet that was part festive crab feed, part bare-knuckled lobbying effort.

For the benefit of her attendees, who included elected officials, bureaucrats, scientists, and fishermen and their families, she had shipped hundreds of pounds of Dungeness down from Oregon, where, unlike in California, the annual crab season was already under way. She believed that state officials were being too cautious in prohibiting commercial crabbing due to an outbreak of toxic domoic acid, an embargo that had decimated the fortunes of some 1,800 crab-fishing captains and crews in California. Domoic acid, she pointed out, had neither killed nor caused a reported sickening of anyone so far this year. Washington State had let commercial fishermen on the water. Why not reopen the waters in California?

It wouldn’t be that easy. The California Department of Public Health requires scientists to confirm two consecutive clean tests for potentially harmful toxins in locally caught crabs. Since the fall, at least one of every two tests had reported unacceptably high levels of domoic acid, which can poison all kinds of sea life and can sicken and potentially kill humans. By the time I caught up with French again in mid-March, several weeks after the banquet, the state’s crabbers were still out of luck. One recent test had come back clear, French told me over the phone. With one more clean bill of health, her husband and hundreds of other fishermen working the coastline from Santa Barbara up to Crescent City would have been able to drop pots and catch crabs. But when the subsequent test results came back, they weren’t good: A crab had been found with domoic acid levels in its organs at 38 parts per million, 8 above the cutoff level. French was devastated: “Our last bit of hope was just jerked away,” she said.

Through her organization, French knows fishermen and their families across California. The day before our chat, she’d spoken to one fisherman whose house was on the verge of foreclosure. Today she’d talked to another who had found a job in Washington but needed $200 to travel there. Despite fundraising dinners held in port towns along the coast, need outpaced money. French was amassing a long waiting list of fishing families requiring assistance. Pain crept into her voice when she talked about the food banks that had sprung up at the docks: “We’re the people who provide food, and we don’t have any.”

The Frenches are better off than many of the families for whom crab fishing is a way of life. Lori’s father-in-law bought agricultural land on the Central Coast in the ’70s. After he was killed coming back into the Morro Bay harbor in 1987, the farm—on which they grow avocados—passed to her and her husband, Jeff. Jeff has been in the fishing business since he was 16, and the Frenches now own two boats: the Nadine, a 53-footer, and the 42-foot Langosta II. But with the boats both idle, the Frenches had to rely solely on their other sources of income. They sell eggs to pay the grocery bills, and Lori works part-time as an office manager for a construction firm. Now they were considering putting the back bedroom up on Airbnb.

After we talked, French sent me an email. Make sure, she wrote, to emphasize that nobody had gotten sick this year from eating crabs. In fact, the Frenches knew some fishermen who had eaten Dungeness just the other day and had no problems. They would never want to sell something unsafe, she said, and she was sure that the crabs along California’s coast were harmless. “We’re not Chipotle,” she said.

It’s hard to imagine any Northern California food industry more local and sustainable—call it ocean-to-table—than crab fishing. A crew of guys (they’re almost always guys) on a boat drop big metal pots rigged with bait—squid, mackerel, maybe clams—into the water directly off our coast. Then, a day later, they come back and lug the pots up, loaded with crawling, snapping Metacarcinus magister, bound for markets and restaurants mere hours (or minutes) away from the point of capture.

But crab fishing is sustainable only if the ocean waters that the crabs swim in aren’t poisonous—and for five months of the 2015–16 crabbing season, they were. A vast toxic algae bloom, one of the largest ever recorded, produced enough domoic acid to effectively kill most of the season, and although the crab fishery finally did open, an ominous shadow had fallen over the entire coast. And not just for people who rely on crabbing for their livelihood: The great crab shutdown of 2016 was one of those events that inspire ominous thoughts in many coastal dwellers about the fragility of our food supply and the vulnerability of our producers. We’ve gone in just a few short years from theorizing about what might happen someday in a changing climate to grappling with the harsh realities of the Anthropocene—the geological epoch in which human impacts on the environment can no longer be ignored. This is a story about the instability of the seafood we eat and the degenerative health of the water it comes from. But mostly it’s a story about people who fish for crab and what happened the year they couldn’t.

In the same way that Hemingway described going bankrupt, the 2015–16 Dungeness crab season fell apart gradually, then suddenly. In the winter of 2012–13, an area of high atmospheric pressure parked in the northeastern Pacific Ocean. Dubbed the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge by a graduate student at Stanford, it deflected westerly winds away from the state. Normally, those winds churn the oceans, helping cooler water at lower depths well up toward the surface. With lower rates of upwelling, the water off the Pacific coast reached warmer temperatures than ever before recorded. At their peaks in 2014 and 2015, water temperatures were recorded at more than five degrees Celsius above normal, according to Clarissa Anderson, a biological oceanographer at UC Santa Cruz.

Nicholas Bond, the state of Washington’s climatologist, nicknamed the patch of warm water, which at times reached all the way from Alaska to Mexico, the Blob, and like its B-movie namesake, it wreaked havoc. The atypically warm water likely played a role in nourishing a vast algae bloom stretching from Santa Barbara to Alaska, 40 miles wide and 650 feet deep, whose poisonous by-products included domoic acid and paralytic shellfish toxins. Charismatic megafauna like sea lions washed up on beaches, apparently starving. You probably saw stories on Facebook about an inordinate number of sick seal pups being taken to the Marine Mammal Center in Marin to be rehabilitated—it was all connected. Although this year’s El Niño caused the algae bloom to more or less dissipate, the closure of the crab season had been set in motion.

In May 2015 at the docks of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, scientists launched person-size robotic submersibles packed with sensors and instruments. By the end of the month, these “biochemistry labs in a can” had returned with the news: Domoic acid, a naturally occurring organic molecule that usually dissipates harmlessly, was gathering at alarming rates. During a normal year, concentrations of 1,000 nanograms of the acid per liter of seawater would count as high. Last spring, Monterey Bay reached 10 to 30 times that level. By June, dead anchovies were washing ashore at Moss Landing, between Santa Cruz and Monterey, showing high levels of domoic acid in their bodies.

Biologists and public health officials were understandably alarmed by the findings. After the continent’s first recorded outbreak of domoic acid poisoning, which sickened at least 107 people and killed 3 in Canada’s Prince Edward Island in 1987, scientists began to study it in earnest. The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Toxicology Data Network keeps a dossier online: In 1991, domoic acid was discovered in the bodies of dead pelicans and cormorants in Monterey Bay—and soon after in the bodies of razor clams and Dungeness crabs in Oregon and Washington. Over five days in January 1996, 150 brown pelicans died at the tip of Baja California, likely after they’d eaten contaminated mackerel. Researchers have tied a series of sea lion miscarriages and pup deaths in the Channel Islands to domoic acid poisoning in the brains and bodies of the fetuses and newborns. In February of this year, Frances Gulland, a scientist who works at the Marine Mammal Center, published a paper reporting domoic acid poisoning in marine mammals off the Alaskan coast—the farthest north ever detected. Thirty large whales died in the Gulf of Alaska last summer, with domoic acid as a prime suspect. Domoic-acid-producing toxic algae blooms (the algae’s scientific name is Pseudo-nitzschia) have been found around the world, including off the coasts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Texas, the Netherlands, Japan, Korea, Spain, and New Zealand and, closest to home, in Monterey Bay last May.

The question everyone wants the answer to, of course, is whether the extraordinarily large algae bloom that led to this year’s domoic acid outbreak was caused by global warming. Scientists are hesitant to assign a single cause to such phenomena, but they are fairly uniform in their conclusion that catastrophic natural events like the drought-worsening Ridiculously Resilient Ridge and the Pseudo-nitzschia-spawning warm-water Blob are a preview of worse times to come. Writing in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, a team of Stanford scientists said that events like the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge “occur much more frequently in the present climate than in the absence of human emissions.” (A follow-up paper this year by the same team buttressed that conclusion.)

Though they are reticent about dealing a final verdict, scientists are increasingly worried that the anomalous could become the norm—that algae blooms and toxin outbreaks may well happen again, and with increased frequency and potentially worse consequences, as the climate changes.

Bodega Bay is “about an hour and a half on the freeway. Or two if you take the coast highway.” So says a character to Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which, coincidentally, was partially inspired by a mass die-off of seabirds in 1961 that scientists now link to a domoic acid outbreak. I drove up on the freeway, but it took me over two hours to putter from my apartment in Oakland to the Fishetarian restaurant in Bodega Bay. There, on a weekday morning in March, I met Shane Lucas, who paused from slinging fried cod sandwiches (mayonnaise, hot sauce, delicious) to talk about the season. After watching the wholesaler on the dock next to his sell Dungeness for years, he finally leased a boat with a permit and bought $50,000 worth of crab pots. “I thought I could make it back in two weeks,” he said. Now the pots were in dry dock under a nearby tree. “At least they look pretty, and they’ll keep until next year.”

Once you notice the pots, round metal wire traps about 18 inches high and a yard across, you see them everywhere, piled in backyards and lining the roads, standing at attention like an army that hasn’t left the barracks. There must have been dozens at the Tides, the town’s main wholesaler. Inside, a sign on a bulletin board had a forlorn message: “Help Our Fishermen. Bring food donations to the Spud Point Marina Office. Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm.”

At the entrance to the Spud Point Marina, hundreds of crab pots dried in the sun. Across the street, the Spud Point Crab Co., a restaurant housed in a small shack, looked deserted. I was there to meet Dick Ogg, the captain of the fishing boat Karen Jeanne. He rested his weathered hands and chipped fingernails on a table inside the boat’s cabin as his two dogs, Buster and Nessie, ran around. Had this been a rough season for him? I asked, a little weakly. “Rough?” he chuckled. “That’s kind of an understatement.”

Ogg, 63, has fished recreationally his whole life—he still free-dives for abalone. Around 2000, he began to transition away from his job as an electrician and move into commercial fishing; now he and his crew fish for Dungeness, salmon, and black cod. He proudly showed me pictures of cod he’s caught, beaming like they were his grandchildren. The captains and deckhands in Bodega Bay rely on salmon in the summer and Dungeness in the winter. Last year’s salmon season was a disaster, but at least it opened. Ogg had hoped a strong crab season would pick up the slack. This, too, would be a disappointment.

In a typical year, it would have gone like this: About 60 days before the start of the season, Ogg and his two deckhands would have begun to prep the Karen Jeanne. Then they’d have waited for the all clear from the state, which usually happens in November. As a group, the fishermen would have negotiated a price for their catch with wholesalers before heading out. “If the weather allows, we’ll fish every single day” from around Thanksgiving time through Chinese New Year in February. Crabs depending, they’ll sometimes even fish into April, Ogg said.

The job is exhausting, but it pays. The first time that Ogg worked with his current crew, a few years ago, they pulled 70 pots loaded with Dungeness out of the water—over 7,000 pounds’ worth—in a single run. After they off-loaded, the crew wanted to call it a day. Ogg wanted to head out again. “They said they were tired. I said, ‘OK, but you realize that run was roughly $18,000. You want to give up another $18,000 tonight?’” (Ogg rules with a light hand—the crew won a rest.) Generally, deckhands receive between 10 and 15 percent of the proceeds from the catch, although some captains deduct costs before splitting the money. (Ogg doesn’t.) The most profitable part of the season is around the holidays. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, a crew member can make $30,000, amounting to 80 percent of the year’s income.

The hopes for a year like that were dashed early on, when the state closed the commercial crab fishery on November 6 of last year. The Department of Fish and Wildlife tapped Ogg as one of its unpaid volunteers to collect crab samples, which were then delivered to a lab in Richmond to be tested for domoic acid levels. So instead of hauling hundreds of crabs, the Karen Jeanne spent the winter catching six at a time—no more, no less—from three different depths at predesignated locations. Up and down the state, nervous fishermen reloaded Fish and Wildlife’s website every morning to see whether the little red dot next to “Dungeness crab” had turned green, indicating that the season was open. “When I started realizing this wasn’t going to happen,” said Ogg, “my objective was to find income for the deckhands. Most of the captains can tough it out, but the crews don’t have anything. They are young families, young guys, just hoping and waiting that everything will work out.”

The Spud Point Marina Advisory Board collected donations and passed out $100 Safeway gift cards to the crew members every month. Community members started a food bank in the harbor office. Some guys moved to live on the boats. Nobody wanted to say it, but drinking, always a problem among fishermen, became a bigger one. Although it was possible to find jobs on land, it was difficult, because the crabbers needed to be ready to fish at short notice. Ogg helped arrange day jobs for his crew doing electrical work. Others worked as substitute teachers, day laborers, or Christmas tree sellers.

Over a life on the water, Ogg has watched the changes roll by like waves. Forty years ago, he could find salmon in Bodega Bay. Not anymore. Albacore and rockfish would congregate in the Cordell Banks to the south, but it became a marine sanctuary in the ’80s, so he can no longer fish there. Last year, the salmon, starving, possibly because of low supplies of krill, turned to eating hard bait like anchovy and sardines. Usually the salmon’s flesh is red, like the licorice rope that the crew keeps on the boat, but last year it turned dry and tasteless and an unhealthy-seeming pink. During this last year, Ogg witnessed the most significant changes in the ocean that he’d ever seen: “It went from a cooler, krill-laden ocean to basically sterile up and down the coastline.” The domoic acid, he thinks, may have even affected whales. “They came right under the boat—that’s the first time that’s happened,” he said. “When we’re pulling, the whales will come up to sit and watch. They never used to do that. I keep thinking they are eating [domoic acid] and getting drunk.”

I mentioned that domoic acid causes amnesia and disorientation, and that the whales may indeed have been poisoned. He nodded sadly. I changed the subject and asked how he likes to eat crab. Cioppino or cracked? He lightened. “I’ll eat crab occasionally, but after you’ve seen hundreds of thousands of them, you don’t want to see it anymore. The boys”—that’s what he calls his crew—“eat it, though. It’s good for them.”

I asked him whether he thought that this year was an anomaly or part of a longer trend. The mood darkened again. Although he thought that much of what happened this year was cyclical, he was worried about the long term. “There’s a lot of young people in this business,” he said. “We have to do something to promote them. Otherwise, the industry is going to pass away.”

Although wounded, the state’s fishermen pulled through. The end of the closure came as a shock, a welcome surprise. On March 26, a few weeks after I’d chatted with Lori French and visited Dick Ogg, the little dot next to “Dungeness crab”on the Fish and Wildlife website turned from red to green. Crab season was back on, albeit five months later than normal. On Twitter, food writer John Birdsall called it “basically San Francisco Christmas.”

The next day, I paid a visit to the docks near Pier 45 in San Francisco. Despite the Alcatraz Psych Ward sweatshirts and In-N-Out Burger, Fisherman’s Wharf still operates as an actual wharf for actual fishermen. You can find them, too, if you sneak out back, past the tiny wooden Catholic chapel that still holds a Latin Mass on Sundays, to the long pier that points toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Inside a prep room behind Scoma’s restaurant, a crew of white-clad cleaners sprayed down the rubber mats on the floors with big hoses. Across the water, a forklift moved stacks of crab pots a half dozen at a time to cranes attached to the dock, where they would be loaded onto waiting boats. Lines were untied. Equipment was loaded and unloaded. Decks were swabbed. Cigarettes extinguished. Nods were exchanged and final conversations in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese were held. By the time the city’s office workers had staggered to their desks, the boats were long gone.

The following morning, as the first loads of crab returned, I wandered inside the warehouse at Alber Seafoods, where workers were packaging the harvest and moving it onto waiting trucks. Two men unloaded live crabs into plastic bins filled with water. Last year, on the first day of the season, workers say they’d cleared an estimated 14,000 pounds. Today they’d pulled in 5,800. I asked one of the workers how the crabs looked: “Nice and full,” he said, but there just weren’t enough of them. “We missed it all.” At least, I suggested, there was pent-up demand. People must be dying to eat crabs, yeah? Maybe not. “Like I tell my wife, it’s like sex,” he said. “After a while, you’re just out of the mood.”

To test this thesis, I headed over to Nob Hill, where by 11:30 there was a line out the door of Swan Oyster Depot on Polk Street. In the window, fresh crabs sat on a bed of ice, their carapaces gleaming like gemstones in the sunlight. Waiting to get inside were representatives from every one of San Francisco’s jockeying demographics: a tourist; a college kid in a Cal football jersey; a pair of working-class dudes drinking beer from plastic cups; a couple of women wearing black leggings and sipping from water bottles, fresh from exercise class; a lady with dyed green hair wearing a “Humans for Bernie” T-shirt. Time for us to eat some Dungeness crab.

I paid $24 in cash for a half-cracked crab and an Anchor Steam. (The yellow viscera known as crab butter is safe to eat, too, but since domoic acid collects at higher concentrations there than in the meat, I avoided it. Also, I don’t really like it.) I piled the meat from a leg onto a thick slice of sourdough and splashed it with a goopy dollop of red cocktail sauce. So sweet, so cold, so delicious. The fisherman was obviously wrong. How could anyone not be in the mood for this?

In the dark before dawn on May 3, a little over a month into the abbreviated crab season, Dick Ogg guided the Karen Jeanne out of the Spud Point Marina. It was just after 5 a.m. on what would be their second-to-last crab run of the season, and ahead shone the lights of fishing boats that had left ahead of us. Onboard were Dick, the dogs, and his two deckhands. Hal, who works as a firefighter in San Jose, pulled his hoodie snugly against himself and napped inside the cabin. Joe, who works construction on the side, talked in nervous bursts of energy. As the sky began to lighten, Dick explained the day’s plan. They’d fish in the relatively shallow coastal waters of Bodega Bay, between their berth at the north end and Tomales Bay State Park to the south, where the federal government had recently forced the closure of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company farm. Filled with bait, their crab pots lay in rows by the dozen at the bottom of the water. When the boat passed by, Hal and Joe would raise them to the surface, hoping to find them filled with crabs. Normally, they would then add new bait and return the pots to the water, but today they’d stack the pots on deck to haul back with them.

It was a 15-mile run southeast to the first group of pots, the exact location of which I am bound not to reveal. The water was clear and calm. By 6:55, the sun had risen behind low clouds and we’d arrived. Joe elbowed Hal awake, and the two men put on rubber work clothes. “These days,” said Joe, “I run on 5-Hour Energy and attitude.” Dick climbed up to the top of the cabin, where another steering wheel allowed him to control the boat while keeping an eye on the buoys that marked where the pots sat in the water. I clambered up behind him.

The boat, rocking gently but persistently, pulled alongside a buoy that marked a pot’s location. “Coming up, coming up, coming up!” the crewmen called excitedly. Dick angled the approach so that the pot was close to starboard, where Hal waited with a hook affixed to a long pole. He attached a rope to an electric winch that pulled the pot up. Hal coiled the loose rope into an empty trash can, and Joe unclipped the buoy and cleaned it in a bucket full of bleach and water. When the trap emerged into the air, Joe and Hal took hold of it on either side and poured more than a dozen, maybe 20, crabs into a small holding tank. Joe hugged his arms around the sides of the pot and walked to the back of the deck, where he dropped it. They threw the leftover bait back into the water, which soon roiled with seagulls. When they had a moment, they used a metal tool to measure the length of each crab—61/4 inches was the magic number; any males smaller than that got thrown back, along with all the females. Joe and Hal tossed the keepers into a massive tank installed in the hull. The crabs’ claws twitched open and closed as they spun like Frisbees into the water.

The deckhands had about a minute before the boat, which never stopped moving forward, arrived at the next buoy, marking another pot. The day before, they’d pulled 160 80-pound pots out of the water, after which Hal had stacked them at Dick’s house past dark. The next day they would do it again, for the final time this season. Relatively speaking, these were slow, easy days.

By midafternoon, the crew had piled the back of the boat high with empty pots, and hundreds of crabs wriggled in the hold. The boat tipped noticeably toward its stern. Dick and the crew debated going after one more string of pots before heading home. They could do it either today or tomorrow, and as the boys began to call out, “One more! One more! One more!” Dick laid in the course.

They loaded until they had no more room, and then it was time to head home. At the Tides, they tied the boat up alongside a small crane, with which a worker pulled up the empty pots three at a time; another drove them away with a forklift. Once they had unloaded the pots, they pumped the water out of the hold and loaded crab after crab into crates. Beady eyes blinked and mouths gaped open and closed silently as the men grabbed them at the base of the back legs. Joe tried to convince the guys to buy his rare albino crab, which was actually an ordinary crab that he’d accidentally dropped into some bleach. No takers. He tossed it overboard.

The men had harvested just over 1,000 pounds. Two of the gorgeous little suckers came home with me in a box on the backseat of my Civic. For the 12-plus hours of work, Dick made a little more than $3,200. Joe and Hal each went home with $480. Not life-changing money, but a respectable haul—so much so that I asked Dick why they’d decided to call it a season. “It’s always good to stop,” he reasoned. “Nature’s telling me it’s time to move on.”

As summer began, life continued along the coast. Ogg motored the Karen Jeanne up to Washington, where he hoped the ship’s engine would be rebuilt in time for the late-summer salmon run. At the Marine Mammal Center, Frances Gulland braced for another year’s worth of dying sea lion pups. In the waters off Washington, scientists launched their own robotic “laboratory in a can,” similar to the one used in Monterey.

According to the preliminary figures from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, in March, April, and May, fishermen had caught 5.7 million pounds of Dungeness crab, almost all of that total in April. That was less than a third of the yearly average over the last decade. In Monterey Bay, scientists kept a wary eye on domoic acid levels as the annual algae bloom returned. Around summer solstice, the answer began to emerge: It was good news. Tests indicated that levels had crept up to only three parts per million in mussels—far below the level of concern. Although a larger bloom could still occur, the likelihood increased that the state’s crab fishermen would catch a break this November.

That victory, however, may not last. This year was a scary wakeup call for the crab fishers, and the scariest thing was that there was nothing they could do, save for changing professions, to mitigate the next disaster. Another strong algae bloom, the crabbers fear, could bring the industry to its knees. Two lost seasons in a row could all but destroy it.

Could the Dungeness crab fishery disappear entirely? Probably not. But then again, who really knows? These are dark and uncertain times. Someday, not so long from now, you might miss eating Dungeness crab. You’ll miss sitting around the kitchen table with your family, crabs splayed out on white butcher paper, everybody splitting legs open with a nutcracker. You’ll miss the ritual, how it made you feel connected to the place where you live and to the people who hauled your feast up from the seafloor. Maybe you’ll bore the grandkids one day, years from now, with stories about how you used to pile the empty shells in bowls until the bowls tipped over.


Originally published: http://modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/consider-the-crab

May 3 2016

One North Coast “Hot Crab” Pushes California’s Fishery Officials to Reconsider Opening Protocols

— Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM. Please do not republish without their permission. —

Copyright © 2016 Seafoodnews.com

Seafood News


SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Susan Chambers – April 29, 2016

If anyone has a right to be crabby about the Dungeness crab season in California, it’s the fishermen and processors in Northern California.

Persistent levels of domoic acid in the crab in California delayed the Dungeness and rock crab along the whole coast and have allowed limited, incremental openings of sport and commercial fisheries in certain areas. The industry anxiously awaited word on the last hold-out area, at Trinidad, in Humboldt County, Thursday, but the April 28 test returned one “hot” crab that had levels exceeding 30 ppm.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Pete Kalvass said Thursday the department was going to have internal discussions and solicit feedback from the industry about what, if anything, could be done to open the fishery on the North Coast.

Recreational fisheries are open from Humboldt Bay entrance to the California/Mexico border. Commercial Dungeness fisheries are open from the Mendocino/Sonoma county line south. That leaves three counties, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte, that remain closed to commercial crabbing.

Coincidentally, Sen. Mike McGuire, D-North Coast and chairman of the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, held a hearing the same day to get an update on the crab disaster declaration and domic acid ocean conditions.

Mike Lucas, president of North Coast Fishers Inc., was one of the panelists.

“We saw markets disappear,” he said, noting that more localized issues, like crab feeds, also disappeared or were reduced. These are the biggest fundraisers of the year for some organizations, he said. “There have been boats lost, families split, homes lost and communities have suffered,” he said in his written comments.

Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations Executive Director Tim Sloane mentioned similar circumstances.

“Two board members tell me they’re getting out of fishing as a direct result of this closure,” he said.

McGuire had proposed forming a shellfish council — similar to the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission — to take on some of the marketing and public relations issues that overwhelmed the industry and agencies this year. Panelists generally supported the idea, especially since changing ocean conditions may mean similar upheavals in the progression of the crab season in the future.

“Things are really changing for us,” Sloane said.

And while getting disaster aid and forming a marketing council are good ideas, clear protocols for testing is most important, some of the panelists said. Sloane said written and enforceable protocols for domoic acid testing and management, which include timing, notification procedures and opening protocols, are necessary. Lucas also mentioned the potential for crab quality testing after the Jan. 15 cutoff date should be part of the testing plan. This would ensure the public gets quality crab and the resource isn’t damaged by fishing on crab in softshell conditions, he said.

Some of the other suggestions included:

– Coordinating a media message and engaging all of the state departments and industry in the message to assure the public that crab testing is being done and, once the crab are clear, consumers should have no fear in buying and eating crab;
– Research into whether the 30 ppm threshold is accurate;
– Looking more closely at the 30-day fair start provisions;
– Consider a November-April season, so fishing on softshell crab is avoided.

McGuire said he’d continue to work with state agencies on protocols and would like to get the shellfish council up and running before 2017. In addition, McGuire plans to hold another, shorter hearing in July or August to hear about ocean and industry updates over the summer and a fifth hearing after the season opening in the fall.


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Nov 6 2015

Commercial Dungeness Crab Season Opener Delayed and Commercial Rock Crab Season Closed

cdfwNovember 6, 2015


The Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today enacted an emergency rulemaking to delay the opener of the commercial Dungeness crab season, which was scheduled to open on Nov. 15, and close the commercial rock crab fishery, which is open year round. The closure could take effect as early as today.

“Crab is an important part of California’s culture and economy, and I did not make this decision lightly,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “But doing everything we can to limit the risk to public health has to take precedence.”

The emergency rule prohibits commercial take and possession of Dungeness crab and all rock crab from ocean waters, including bays and estuaries, north of the Ventura/Santa Barbara county line. Closure of the fisheries will remain in effect until the Director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), in consultation with the Director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), determines that domoic acid levels no longer pose a significant risk to public health and recommends the fisheries be open, and the Director of CDFW provides notification to the commercial fisheries.

This decision follows a health advisory issued by CDPH on Tuesday. OEHHA followed that with a recommendation for fishery opener delays and closures. In a similar action, on Thursday, Nov. 5, the Fish and Game Commission voted to delay the recreational Dungeness crab opener and close the recreational rock crab fishery. The recreational Dungeness crab season was scheduled to start Saturday, Nov. 7.

CDFW will continue to coordinate with CDPH and OEHHA to test domoic acid levels in crab along the coast to determine when the fisheries can safely be opened. Once levels drop and the crab are safe, CDFW will coordinate with the Commission so that the season openers for Dungeness crab ensure an orderly fishery balancing recreational and commercial participation.

CDPH, in conjunction with CDFW, has been actively testing crabs since early September and results from the most recent tests showed that the health risk to humans is significant. Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin that can accumulate in shellfish, other invertebrates and sometimes fish. It causes illness and sometimes death in a variety of birds and marine mammals that consume affected organisms. At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures and can in some cases be fatal.

Domoic acid is produced from some species of the marine diatom Pseudo-nitzschia. Currently, a massive toxic bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia has developed, significantly impacting marine life along California’s coast. State scientists tested crab from nine ports from Santa Barbara to Crescent City, and determined that domoic acid levels are exceeding the state’s action level.

Algal blooms are common, but this one is particularly large and persistent. Warmer ocean water temperatures due to the El Niño event California is experiencing are likely the cause of the size and persistence of this bloom.

###

crabs

Nov 5 2015

Commission Delays Opener of Recreational Dungeness Crab Season and Closes Northern Part of Recreational Rock Crab Fishery

cdfw


The California Fish and Game Commission today voted 3-0 in favor of an emergency rulemaking to prohibit recreational take and possession of Dungeness crab and all rock crab from ocean waters, including bays and estuaries, north of the Ventura/Santa Barbara county line. Closure of the fisheries will remain in effect until the Director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), in consultation with the Director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), determines that domoic acid levels no longer pose a significant risk to public health and no longer recommends the fisheries be closed.

The Commission also directed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to maintain a list of closed ocean waters of the state and update that list on Wednesday of each week by 1 p.m. It is the responsibility of any person, prior to taking Dungeness crab, to call CDFW’s hotline at (831) 649-2883 or visit the CDFW website to obtain the current status of any ocean water.

The recreational Dungeness crab season was scheduled to start Saturday, Nov. 7.

CDPH, in conjunction with CDFW, has been actively testing crabs since early September and results from the most recent tests showed that the health risk to humans is significant. CDHP issued a health advisory on Tuesday. OEHHA followed that with a recommendation for delays and closures of the crab fisheries.CDFW will continue to coordinate with CDPH and OEHHA to test domoic acid levels in crab along the coast to determine when the fisheries can safely be opened.

Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin that can accumulate in shellfish, other invertebrates and sometimes fish. It causes illness and sometimes death in a variety of birds and marine mammals that consume affected organisms. At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, epilepsy, and can in some cases be fatal.

Domoic acid is produced from some species of the marine diatom Pseudo-nitzschia. Currently, a massive toxic bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia has developed, significantly impacting marine life along California’s coast. Biologists tested crab from eight ports from Morro Bay to Crescent City, and determined that domoic acid levels are exceeding the State’s action level.

Algal blooms are common, but this one is particularly large and persistent. Warmer ocean water temperatures, due to the El Niño event California is experiencing, are likely behind the large size and persistence of this bloom.

Commercial fisheries are also affected by domoic acid levels. CDFW has the authority to delay or otherwise restrict commercial fisheries, and is developing an emergency rulemaking under that authority. The commercial Dungeness crab season is currently scheduled to open Nov. 15.

###

crab

Nov 2 2015

California’s Dungeness crab season start in doubt due to toxic algae offshore

Fred Stewart, of Woodland cooks up crab while camping at the Doran Beach campground. Stewart and his family have been camping and crab fishing the past 34 Thanksgiving weekends.

 

With less than a week to go before sport anglers can begin setting traps for Dungeness crab, a persistent bloom of toxic red algae off the Pacific Coast is threatening to disrupt the start of the catch and one of California’s most valuable fisheries.

State officials are awaiting test results they hope will come back by midweek before deciding if they will delay the Nov. 7 recreational start, as well as commercial seasons set to begin a week later, Fish and Wildlife personnel said.

Concern about a powerful neurotoxin called domoic acid produced by certain marine algae is driving the deliberations in California and in other regions, including Washington state, where much of the Dungeness crab fishery was closed through the summer because of high levels of domoic acid found in crustaceans there.

In California, absent current test results to evaluate, “everything kind of is up in the air right now,” state Fish and Wildlife Department spokeswoman Jordan Traverso said Friday.

Overall, algae blooms that peaked in late summer off the California coast are reported to be diminishing, according to Pete Kalvass, senior environmental scientist with state Fish and Wildlife.

But domoic acid levels of even 21 parts per million in crab meat are considered potentially dangerous, Traverso said.

“We don’t know what the next step is until we get results,” said Christy Juhasz, an environmental scientist with the agency.

Barring a delay, the recreational crabbing season will start Saturday, Nov. 7, and can be expected to draw thousands of eager fishermen to the North Coast for what’s become an increasingly popular undertaking, spawning traditions that bring family and friends together, filling campgrounds, boat ramps and bays.

Campsites for the crab opener generally are booked months in advance in anticipation of the first-day scrum.

“We’re busy in the summer, and it used to be just the summer that we had the most interest,” said Willy Vogler, co-owner of Lawson’s Landing on Tomales Bay. “Then, in the last decade or so, November has become like another summer, and it’s primarily due to the Dungeness crab season opening up. … Losing the crab would be bad.”

Commercial crabbers would begin pulling their pots on Sunday, Nov. 15, south of the Sonoma-Mendocino County line, and north of it beginning Tuesday, Dec. 1. After a weak salmon season, they’re raring to go.

“There’s a lot of guys who need to go,” said veteran fisherman Chris Lawson, past president of the Fishermen’s Marketing Association of Bodega Bay. “But the fishermen I’ve talked to — nobody is about to risk our markets by putting a consumer in jeopardy of getting sick from it.”

Scientists and wildlife officials for months have been monitoring a vast red tide up and down the West Coast, with accompanying domoic acid outbreaks affecting everything from California sea lions to seabirds, whales, fish and shellfish.

Though such algal blooms occur with some regularity, the size and density of the one this year has been considered especially alarming. It is believed linked to a band of unusually warm water stretching from Alaska to Mexico that has impacted coastal habitats in myriad ways.

Domoic acid is produced especially by an algae called pseudo-nitzchia that can accumulate in fish and their predators, concentrating up the food chain.

It can be harmful and even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities.

Symptoms of mild poisoning include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, dizziness and confusion beginning 30 minutes to 24 hours after consuming toxic seafood.

Severe cases may cause difficulty breathing, seizure, coma and even death. Survivors in some cases may experience permanent short-term memory loss.

Cooking or freezing does not destroy domoic acid in shellfish.

Human health advisories are in effect in California warning consumers against eating recreationally harvested mussels, clams and whole scallops harvested off the coasts of Humboldt, Del Norte, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Barbara counties. Also on the no-eat list are commercially or recreationally caught anchovy, sardines and crab from the Central Coast counties.

Public health officials said bivalves, like clams, as well as anchovies and sardines are especially worrisome because the toxin collects in their digestive tracts, and those species typically are not gutted before consumption.

State officials currently are testing Dungeness crab caught out of eight California ports, including Crescent City, Trinidad, Eureka, Fort Bragg, Bodega Bay, San Francisco/Half Moon Bay, Monterey and Morro Bay.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

With less than a week to go before sport anglers can begin setting traps for Dungeness crab, a persistent bloom of toxic red algae off the Pacific Coast is threatening to disrupt the start of the catch and one of California’s most valuable fisheries.

State officials are awaiting test results they hope will come back by midweek before deciding if they will delay the Nov. 7 recreational start, as well as commercial seasons set to begin a week later, Fish and Wildlife personnel said.

Concern about a powerful neurotoxin called domoic acid produced by certain marine algae is driving the deliberations in California and in other regions, including Washington state, where much of the Dungeness crab fishery was closed through the summer because of high levels of domoic acid found in crustaceans there.

In California, absent current test results to evaluate, “everything kind of is up in the air right now,” state Fish and Wildlife Department spokeswoman Jordan Traverso said Friday.

Overall, algae blooms that peaked in late summer off the California coast are reported to be diminishing, according to Pete Kalvass, senior environmental scientist with state Fish and Wildlife.

But domoic acid levels of even 21 parts per million in crab meat are considered potentially dangerous, Traverso said.

“We don’t know what the next step is until we get results,” said Christy Juhasz, an environmental scientist with the agency.

Barring a delay, the recreational crabbing season will start Saturday, Nov. 7, and can be expected to draw thousands of eager fishermen to the North Coast for what’s become an increasingly popular undertaking, spawning traditions that bring family and friends together, filling campgrounds, boat ramps and bays.

Campsites for the crab opener generally are booked months in advance in anticipation of the first-day scrum.

“We’re busy in the summer, and it used to be just the summer that we had the most interest,” said Willy Vogler, co-owner of Lawson’s Landing on Tomales Bay. “Then, in the last decade or so, November has become like another summer, and it’s primarily due to the Dungeness crab season opening up. … Losing the crab would be bad.”

Commercial crabbers would begin pulling their pots on Sunday, Nov. 15, south of the Sonoma-Mendocino County line, and north of it beginning Tuesday, Dec. 1. After a weak salmon season, they’re raring to go.

“There’s a lot of guys who need to go,” said veteran fisherman Chris Lawson, past president of the Fishermen’s Marketing Association of Bodega Bay. “But the fishermen I’ve talked to — nobody is about to risk our markets by putting a consumer in jeopardy of getting sick from it.”

Scientists and wildlife officials for months have been monitoring a vast red tide up and down the West Coast, with accompanying domoic acid outbreaks affecting everything from California sea lions to seabirds, whales, fish and shellfish.

Though such algal blooms occur with some regularity, the size and density of the one this year has been considered especially alarming. It is believed linked to a band of unusually warm water stretching from Alaska to Mexico that has impacted coastal habitats in myriad ways.

Domoic acid is produced especially by an algae called pseudo-nitzchia that can accumulate in fish and their predators, concentrating up the food chain.

It can be harmful and even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities.

Symptoms of mild poisoning include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, dizziness and confusion beginning 30 minutes to 24 hours after consuming toxic seafood.

Severe cases may cause difficulty breathing, seizure, coma and even death. Survivors in some cases may experience permanent short-term memory loss.

Cooking or freezing does not destroy domoic acid in shellfish.

Human health advisories are in effect in California warning consumers against eating recreationally harvested mussels, clams and whole scallops harvested off the coasts of Humboldt, Del Norte, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Barbara counties. Also on the no-eat list are commercially or recreationally caught anchovy, sardines and crab from the Central Coast counties.

Public health officials said bivalves, like clams, as well as anchovies and sardines are especially worrisome because the toxin collects in their digestive tracts, and those species typically are not gutted before consumption.

State officials currently are testing Dungeness crab caught out of eight California ports, including Crescent City, Trinidad, Eureka, Fort Bragg, Bodega Bay, San Francisco/Half Moon Bay, Monterey and Morro Bay.


Read the original post: www.pressdemocrat.com/

Aug 20 2015

Spike in Whale Entanglements Along California Coast May Trigger Dungeness Restrictions

— Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM. Please do not republish without their permission. —

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [San Francisco Chronicle] By Rachel Swan – August 20, 2015

Record numbers of whales are showing up along the California coastline with fishing line tangled around their blubbery bodies, in a trend that’s bedeviled fishermen, environmentalists and state regulators alike.The entanglements happen when whales run into gear that commercial fishermen use to catch Dungeness crab or other crustaceans. The “line” is a thick rope extending from a buoy on the ocean surface to a heavy trap – or “pot” – on the ocean floor. Whales run into the rope while chasing prey along the coastline, and it gets caught in their mouths.”The whales move where the food is, and they’re feeding, so they’ll have their mouths open,” said Peggy Stap, executive director of Marine Life Studies, a conservation group in Moss Landing. She’s seen whales struggle to eat with line running through their mouths.

In some cases, Stap said, the line tangles around their fins and impedes them from swimming.In one instance in September, Stap said, a fisherman set up 600 feet of line and spot prawn traps in a part of Monterey Bay where humpbacks were feeding. One whale got tangled and marooned, bound by the rope to 25 spot prawn traps and two mud anchors, Stap said. She led the rescue team that disentangled it.”It’s incredibly sad” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the San Francisco-based Center for Biological Diversity, one of several conservation groups working to prevent whale entanglement.

Drowning, choking

“If the gear is super heavy, they drown,” Monsell said. “It impedes their ability to feed if it gets in their mouths. If it wraps around their bodies and they continue to grow, they’ll slowly choke.”The surge in whale entanglements evidently began in 2014, when 30 whales were found entangled on the West Coast, and at least seven died from their injuries, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The previous decade saw about eight entanglements per year along the West Coast. As of April this year, 25 whales were ensnared off the California coastline, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Among them was a killer whale that washed up near Fort Bragg with rope wounds around its tail. Distressed by the trend, representatives of the Ocean Protection Council, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will hold a public meeting Thursday at the Elihu M. Harris State Building in Oakland. They’ll target the Dungeness crab fishery, which has caused the majority of whale entanglements on the West Coast, Monsell said.Local crab fishermen will also attend the meeting, and many say they, too, are concerned about the problem.”The reality is, a fisherman may not even realize this is happening,” said Dan Lawson, a fisheries biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Among the ideas on the table is a pilot program that would increase the number of crab pots on each fishing line, thereby decreasing the number of lines in the water. Another idea is to create a better logging system to keep track of how much gear is in the water. Many entanglements happen when whales run into broken line or derelict traps that fishermen have long forgotten, Monsell said. Representatives of several conservation groups – including Earthjustice, Oceana and the Center for Biological Diversity – proposed those reforms, and others, in a letter to state officials in April.

Why more entanglements?

Still, experts haven’t yet figured out what caused the sudden rise in entanglements, and some fishermen say they’re being unfairly targeted.”Things have changed, the water’s hot, and the warm water pushed the whales in,” said Larry Collins, a retired fisherman who now serves as president of the Crab Boat Owners Association in San Francisco. “I think this is a one-off.”He may be right, according to Nate Mantua, a Santa Cruz-based research scientist for the NOAA, who also blames changes in the ocean temperature – not the fishing industry – for the recent string of entanglements.Mantua said the same weather pattern that brought drought and increased wildfires in California has also caused the ocean to heat up, leading the “forage fish” that whales eat to seek refuge in a narrow band of cool water by the shoreline. “In the last few months, there have been extraordinary sightings of lots of marine life, and that Blue Planet food-web-type action by the shore,” Mantua said. “Part of that is because the water (farther) offshore has been so lacking in things like anchovies, sardines and squid – the ‘popcorn of the sea.'”Because whales have to follow their prey, many of them are also floating into that narrow band of coastal water, Mantua said. As a result, they risk getting ensnared in the crab pots that fishermen set just a couple miles off the coast.Since scientists still don’t understand what is causing the unusual weather and how long the pattern will persist, the onus has fallen on rescue teams, environmentalists and commercial fishermen to help protect the whales. Some fishermen worry they’ll bear the brunt of the whale-saving effort.

Costly solutions

Jim Anderson, a veteran crabber who mans the Allaine boat in Half Moon Bay, said some proposals, like increasing the number of crab pots per line, would be costly to implement.”It would create all kinds of difficulty for fishermen” Anderson said, indicating that he and his peers would have to purchase fatter rope, heavier buoys and special lifting equipment, just to shift from one to two traps per line. Whales that got entangled would wind up dragging twice as much gear along with them, he said, putting them in more danger of drowning. Anderson also worried that state or federal officials might try to rewrite the regulations for commercial fishing, just to solve a temporary problem. “What if this is something this year because of the drought, and then we get an El Niño and conditions change?” he asked. “And then we’ve rewritten all these laws.”Nonetheless, Anderson said he’d like to find practical ways to help.

Fishermen aren’t villains

Stap stressed that fishermen are not the bad guys.”They’re trying to do their job and earn a living, and they don’t want the whales entangled any more than we do,” she said. Collins, the retired fisherman, said he will attend the meeting Thursday, even though he’s wary of attempts to regulate the fishing industry.”We love the whales,” Collins said. “But we also like making a living, and feeding people Dungeness crab.”


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Dec 12 2014

Dungeness landings likely down 50% in California, 40% in Oregon; lowest volumes in 8 years

Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM | by John Sackton December 11, 2014

 

The crabs are great.  Its just that there aren’t that many of them.

The Oregon Dungeness fishery opened on time on December 1st, after a short season in the San Francisco Bay area, called district 10.

But boats are simply not finding many crabs.

dungeness-estimateGraph: Seafood Datasearch, based on state and federal data

One fishermen, describing the northern California / Oregon fishery which opened December 1st, said “North of District 10 was the worst opener I can remember.  We knew it would be bad, but not this bad.”

Larger vessels that have the ability to move to other fisheries are now leaving the crab fishery, as the catch rates can no longer support their operations.

Meanwhile, the price at the dock has risen to $3.50, and most packers have extended that retroactively back to December 1st, when the fishery opened with an initial price of $3.10.

The upshot is that harvesters are now predicting the Oregon fishery to be down about 40% from last years 14.3 million pounds, and California is likely to be down 50%.

This means that coast wide, certainly for December and Janaury, it is looking like the lowest total landings for dungeness in the last eight years.

Hugh Link, Executive Director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, said fishermen keep records and know if they are up or down year over year, and that he definitely has the sense that there are fewer Dungeness crabs coming into pots this year, even though fish tickets are still being tallied from the first few days of the season.

Meat fill has been excellent, the fishery opened on time, and there was agreement on price. Only the crabs have not shown up.

The fishery is highly cyclical, so it is quite likely in a few years we will again be talking about heavy supplies of Dungeness.  But for this year, the section and crabmeat supplies will be very tight, and what crab is landed later in the year should be going mainly to the live market.


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Nov 25 2014

Commercial Dungeness Crab Season Opens Dec. 1 in Northern California

cdfw

The northern California Dungeness crab season will open at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014 north of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line.

Prior to the season opening, commercial fishermen are allowed a 64-hour gear setting period. This year, crab trap gear can be set no earlier than 8 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 28.

Quality tests conducted in northern California in November indicate that California Dungeness crabs are ready for harvest. For the results from the pre-season quality tests, please visit the PSMFC website.

Oregon and Washington Dungeness crab seasons will also open on Dec. 1. The central California Dungeness crab season (Sonoma-Mendocino county line to Mexico border) opened on Nov. 15.

For more information on Dungeness crab, please visit the Invertebrate Management Project web page.
Nov 20 2014

San Francisco can’t keep up with bonanza Dungeness crab catch

Posted by permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM  – November 19, 2014

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SAN FRANCISCO

If you are hoping to eat crab on Thanksgiving, you’ll love this. Crab boats are coming back absolutely loaded to the gills. The only downside is that huge catch is creating a few challenges.

Pier 45 has been dealing with a bottleneck of boats trying to deliver their catch. Several boats are still parked in the bay waiting to deliver their catch and head back out to fish. That means the dock workers will be working past midnight for the fourth day in a row.

Since the beginning of the commercial crab season began on Saturday, an estimated 400 boats have been delivering a steady stream of crab to Pier 45.

“We stayed until 2 or 3 last night,” president of the Crab Boat Association Larry Collins said. When we asked him how much sleep he got, he replied, “Not much.”

Many boats have been parked in the bay waiting to deliver. Crews are pumping in oxygen to keep their catch alive.

“We just don’t have the facilities here to unload any more than we are,” skipper Dan Hunt said. He explained in the meantime, “We just sit on crab. Pump on them, keep them alive until the market can take them.”

“It doesn’t look like there’s much crab in Eureka, Crescent City or Brookings, so everybody and their brother came down for this opener,” Collins said.

Skipper Brian Kelley and his crew, from Fort Brag hauled in 30,000 pounds in the first three days. This all amounts to plenty of overtime pay for Juan Cornejo who straps rubber bands around the claws of the Dungeness crabs and gets his share of pinches. He said it happens twice a day.

The crabbers are getting $3 a pound and by the time it’s shipped, boiled, cracked and put on your plate at the restaurant, the price is about $10.95 a pound.

“Yeah, a lot of good crab this year. It’s all 2.5 pounds or bigger. Usually, they’re about a pound and a half to two,” C.J. Green form Alioto’s restaurant said.

Eventually, the crab harvest will thin out and the price will claw its way up. But until then, crab lovers are being encouraged to come and get it.


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