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Why the Bay Area Is Optimistic About the Wholesale Dungeness Crab Season and What Vendors Should Know

As ocean conditions are promising to be much better than last year, Bay Area wholesale seafood vendors should look forward to the upcoming Dungeness crab season! Image courtesy of Flickr CC user Jazz Guy

Last year during the November closure of our local Dungeness crab fishery due to domoic acid, hundreds of vendors and thousands of people (myself included) around the Bay Area dearly missed our annual indulgence in one of San Francisco’s favorite seafood dishes. I also felt for the fishermen whose livelihoods depend on this economically important fishery. It was a relief when the fishery was opened up again back in May, but at that point in the season it was almost too late to enjoy them. This year promises to be different, as scientists and fisheries managers are optimistic about 2016-2017 ocean conditions and the state of Dungeness crab fishery.

What the Joint Committee on Fisheries Found

On October 4, 2016 a committee of scientists, fisheries managers, fishermen, and legislators came together recently in Bodega Bay to discuss the current state of California’s fisheries and potential future aquaculture opportunities. The Dungeness crab fishery was the star of the discussions as the committee discussed ocean conditions and new monitoring techniques. Here’s a summary of those proceedings:

  • Ocean conditions are proving to be favorable for the fishery; domoic acid occurs when our coastal waters are warmer than usual and this year we should see cooler waters.
  • There are still patches of toxicity, such as the recent one in Monterey that has already dissipated, but they are very small and localized, not statewide like the 2015-2016 outbreak.
  • NOAA is initiating a new monitoring project that features an imaging flow cytobot (basically an underwater offshore microscope) that will be able to continuously monitor the California coastline for pseudo-nitzschia, the phytoplankton that causes domoic acid; this amazing technology will increase the detection and reaction time for potential domoic acid outbreaks.

What Bay Area Vendors Need to Know About the Dungeness Crab Market

All of this is great news–the Dungeness fisheries are back on track and the season is set to open as usual on November 15th, with no delays or closures anticipated. But you and your customers most likely still have questions. We’ll try to answer some of them for you:

What can Bay Area seafood vendors expect in terms of price and quality?

  • It’s difficult to predict because of the variables involved, but the price of Dungeness crab will almost certainly be higher than the low $2.90 set for the end of the season last year.
  • There has been little fishing pressure on the crabs in a year, which means their population will be abundant (predicted yield rates are high) and they’ve had months to fatten up, which increases the quality of the meat.

What can we expect from customers?

  • Many people may be hesitant to buy crab after all the media surrounding domoic acid, but there will also be many customers excited about the return of crab to their Bay Area seafood markets.
  • It’s important for our clerks to be informed about the current state of the fishery to address any and all customer concerns surrounding our crabs.
  • Let customers know that fisheries managers and scientists are closely monitoring the weather, modeling where toxic outbreaks could occur and how big they could be, and developing new and exciting technology to detect even the smallest traces of toxic algal blooms.
  • Reassure customers that any outbreak would be quickly detected. Even with the largest outbreak on record last year, no one got sick.

What can we expect from the weather?

  • Last year, a mixture of bad ocean conditions (mainly warmer than usual temperatures) caused the domoic acid outbreak, which spanned 1,000 miles of the north western coastline.
  • As we head from a strong El Niño to a La Niña our coastal waters are cooling, which greatly decreases the chances of a large outbreak.
  • The coastal waters are cooler than normal right now, but it is possible we could have another warm year following this winter. However, testing will be diligent and it is VERY unlikely we will see the same situation happen this year.

Great News for Bay Area Seafood Vendors

We expect that this upcoming season will be profitable for fishermen and vendors alike; we just need to maintain open communication with our customers about how the fisheries are doing and the safety of our product. It’s possible that more outbreaks could occur, but we can be assured that levels of domoic acid and ocean conditions are being extremely closely monitored. We at Pucci Foods are excited for the season to open, and looking forward to provide you with fresh, delicious wholesale Dungeness crab. Contact us to pre-order yours today.

Pucci Foods, seafood importer, processor, distributor, wholesaler, online market.

We need to have Pucci up in front when people are looking for these categories. Since we are on the topic of crabs. We should include crab feeds which is great for fundraisers unless you want to do a whole piece on that.

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