Lack of Dredging May Impact Crab Fishermen Says HFMA

Commercial crab catch.

Commercial crab catch. [Photo from the Department of Fish and Wildlife]

This is a press release from the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association:

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.

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22 comments

  • Very interesting that the harbor district bought a dredge with the $2,000,000 they got from PG&E.
    I was at the meeting when PG&E handed them the check.
    The promise was made to the residents of King Salmon that the canals would be dredged. That was all talk and no action, as was the intention to dredge the marinas.
    No one has been held accountable for the purchase of an unusable dredge or the failure to dredge anywhere in Humboldt Bay. Thus by the people we elected and made promises.
    I hate to say it, by it sounds very typical of today’s polticians.

    • the interesting part is who they bought the dredge from. some of that money is for operations. I have found the problem with almost everything is the Staff. they figured they could yahoo this operation which seems to be the popular mentality these days. nostalgic delusion in the 21st century. I have been to a harbor meeting, it was just after mike was elected. spoiler alert on the first sentence: it was staff related.

  • I feel sad for these hard working brave men and women. When was the last good news regarding the crab fishery?

  • Hi Bill. Do you know why PG&E gave $2m to the harbor district?
    And is the harbor district the one in charge of operation of the dredge?

    • the harbor district is now required to complete all dredging previously required to be completed by PG&E. no, they have been relieved of all dredging requirements. this is all related to king salmon.

    • industrial disease

      As I recall, PG&E gave HCSD the money to buy the dredge to clean out the residential canals at King Salmon.

      • the misadventures of bunjee

        Is this the same dredge that was found to be not legal for use in the Bay, so it sits unused? I should run for a harbor spot next round. Making a whole two phone calls in a month to get something done can’t be that difficult.

  • If maintenance dredging of the marina is optional then maybe paying the salaries of the fucking useless harbor commissioners should also be optional. Dump them!

  • Does any commercial fishing vessel draft only 6 ft? Serious question.

    • Yes. Some local ‘fast crabbing’ boats… or more ‘traditional’ length boats will fit.
      Bigger vessels (which are now primarily setting pots) will draft more.

  • Pretty obvious that the voting majority of the commissioners could care less about the harbor and commerce portion of their state mandate. Years ago, a Bay Keeper supporter told me, their vision was to see a pristine bay without the man made entrance, and restore it to what it was 150 years ago before it was spoiled. “It should be used only for kayaking and canoes. ” In three election cycles, moderate, intelligent people with visions of utilizing commerce and taking care of our sport and commercial fishing fleets, and bringing in self sustaining revenue to enhance conversation and recreation, have lost out to candidates with their own ideas on ecology, that care more about cutting invasive, non native grasses than the safety and sustainability of our fishing fleet. One only needs to walk out to either jetty to witness the demise of their structure, or to talk to any fishermen or longshoremen, to realize they have nearly achieved their goal! Ten years ago, the jetties could have been repaired with a few cement trucks. Now it is pretty obvious, they are beyond repair!

    • The oyster company controls the harbor district and except for commissioner Doss, they have all dropped the ball. They could have teamed up with the city of eureka to dredge, but didn’t.they were told they couldn’t dump dredge spoils on the beach yet went right along with the purchase of a dredge that can only utilize that method. Jack Crider was being paid big dollars to support this and an oyster expansion the coastal commission had told them in 2006 they wouldn’t allow. Mike Wilson who is now a supervisor was one of the commissioners involved. Now he just voted himself a raise.Richard Marx supported all this too.The voters reelected him. Don’t expect much fishermen. They don’t care.

    • What’s wrong with the jetties? They look the same to me as they did 20 years ago.

    • There maybe a way to preserve ecolgy while maintaining the artificial large deep water bay that we’ve created. That isn’t entirely clear. The construction of the jettys and artificial stabilization of the spots certainly had a negative impact on the ecology of the bay. The continuing need to dredge has further impact, at least using the methods employed up to now.

      We (humans) have put short term economy over ecology at nearly every turn. It is time we begin to reverse that.

      “and bringing in self sustaining revenue to enhance conversation and recreation”

      You are fooling yourself here. If you actually want conservation and recreation, restoration is a better path than development, with a light green washing.

  • Why are we all paying the monthly “dredging surcharge” to these crooks?
    Since they are refusing to dredge I demand a refund for years of payments. I understand it would create a problem for their creative bookkeeping, but hey!

  • Sounds like a win for the local boats who already have slips. Might help keep some competition away.

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