Crab Fishermen on Strike

Local Dungeness crab fishermen are demanding higher prices.

Crab traps sit on Trinidad State Beach as local crab fishermen are on strike
Crab traps sit on Trinidad State Beach as local crab fishermen are on strike

Commercial Dungeness crab season is allowed locally as of midnight on January 5th. However, we are seeing no crab gear in the water.  Local Dungeness crab fishermen are holding out for better pay after they say they’ve been offered an unacceptable amount per pound.

The buyers are not offering a price that we’re okay with,” says Jake McMaster, Captain of the Fishing Vessel Captain Banjo.  “They offered $3. We countered with $3.50 on the 1st of January, and we have not had a response to that price negotiation.”

McMasters says they were getting this price over a decade ago, “$3 a pound– 2012, 2013, ten years ago. Everything was a lot cheaper back then.”

While local fishermen say this amount is unacceptable, Jake mentions that it’s actually up from last year.

“Last year they reset the price down to $2. And I think they don’t want it to crawl back up too quickly. So, you know, the cheaper they hit the crab, the more money they’re making, which works out for them in the long run.”

Several local fishermen have said that this is a tactic by large seafood processing companies to force small boats out of business, buy up the permits, and use their own fleet– thus, creating a monopoly.

Our local crab fishermen are waiting to go fishing as a whole until hopefully a higher price per pound is agreed upon.  This may be threatened by Zone 3, from Point Arena to just south of Half Moon Bay, being allowed to finally open its Dungeness crab commercial fishing for the season.  This zone is still prohibited to fish commercially for Dungeness crabs. 

“If San Francisco goes in the middle of the month, then, you know, we might not have a leg to stand on for price,” McMaster explains.  “You know, if they go fishing for, what, $3 offer, then we might not have a choice if I just have to go.”

Meanwhile, Dungeness crab fishermen in Oregon are getting more than $3 a pound for their crabs.

“Oregon’s been getting $3.50 for a long time or higher,” he says. “Makes no sense at $3.”

Redwood News reached out to those processing companies known to buy from our local fishermen for a comment about the price discrepancy.  They directed us to the West Coast Seafood Processors Association, who said their association is not involved in price negotiations.