Lack of Dredging May Impact Crab Fishermen Says HFMA
Crab Fishermen face Double Jeopardy
North coast crab fishermen from Fort Bragg to Crescent City are facing double jeopardy — one from a warming ocean and one man made by a local agency. As of January 8, 2019, the date of the most recent test results for Domoic Acid levels in Dungeness Crabs, both the Patrick’s Point test (north of Trinidad) and the Crescent City test failed due to one crab each over the 30 ppm guidelines for domoic acid levels in crab viscera. These failed tests continue to close fishing grounds from Patrick’s Point to the Oregon border. Tests for domoic acid levels conducted by the California Department of Health proved clean for both Eureka and Fort Bragg crabs . A second test for quality (meat levels in crabs) found Fort Bragg crabs yielding only 22% meat recovery — 3% below market guidelines. As a result, Fort Bragg processors will not buy crabs out of the Mendocino area until the crabs fill in.
With the area north of Patrick’s Point closed and the Fort Bragg crabs not yet suitable for market, conditions exist to shift the entire crab fishing effort of Fort Bragg, Eureka, Trinidad and Crescent City boats to the local grounds off Eureka when the Department of Fish and Wildlife open the northern crab fishery on January 15. Fishermen in all four ports are meeting daily to discuss a possible solution to spread out the fleet and the possibilities of waiting for more clean test results to allow each port the chance to fish in their local waters. Fishermen do not know what the outcome may be.
Meanwhile, out of town boats are arriving in the Port of Eureka in anticipation of the opening of this fishery. This is normal.
What is not normal is the severe lack of safe moorage for the crab fleet caused by no maintenance dredging of Woodley Island Marina.
Crescent City and Fort Bragg boats are already being told by the Humboldt Bay Harbor District that there are no berths available to fishermen if their boat requires more than six feet of water to float in! Local fishermen are increasingly concerned that crab boats will be in competition for the few remaining usable berths in what was a 250 berth marina. Fishermen are asking how everybody can work safely out of this compromised facility when many of the deeper draft crab boats can only get in or out of Woodley Island Marina at high tide? The Humboldt Bay Harbor Commission has delayed maintenance dredging for over six years.
Reacting to a lawsuit recently filed by Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association, the Harbor Commissioners responded by stating that “maintenance dredging at Woodley Island Marina is optional and at the Harbor Commission’s discretion.” The Harbor District is advising fishermen to tie their boats to the old Simpson Pulp Mill wharf in the middle of Humboldt Bay — a site with no services and exposed to the brunt of winter weather. One fisherman stated “that dock would wreck my boat if I tied it there.”
This is a press release from the HFMA. Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District is responsible for dredging the Humboldt Bay. The Executive Director, Larry Oetker, was in a meeting when RHBB called for the District’s perspective. The Harbor District’s response will be posted as soon as it is received.