The North Bay fishing fleet headed out Monday morning to set their crab pots after reaching a settlement with processors on price.
With fishing now finally under way, fresh crab may be available in Sonoma County markets as early as Tuesday afternoon, according to Tony Delima of The Tides Wharf in Bodega Bay.
The agreement ended a two-week stalemate that caused fishermen and processors to miss one lucrative holiday, Thanksgiving, but is expected to bring plenty of crab for the second holiday, Christmas.
Grocers on Monday had not yet set the retail price for crab, which is often sold at a discount to draw in shoppers. G&G Supermarket will sell it for $2.99 a pound for only the first day it is available, although the store will probably not make money at that price, G&G chief executive officer Teejay Lowe said.
Bodega Bay fishermen on Monday remained unhappy with the price they will be getting.
Fishermen had asked for $2.50 a pound, but processors had offered $2. On Monday morning, they agreed on $2.25 a pound.
The deal was struck after several large fishing boats from Oregon broke rank and left San Francisco to go fishing, despite an agreement by fishermen in Bodega Bay, San Francisco and Half Moon Bay to hold out for $2.50 a pound.
"The bigger boats from Oregon decided to go, so the others had to go," said Chuck Cappotto of Gualala, president of the Fishermen's Marketing Association of Bodega Bay. "It was disheartening."
Last year the season opened with fishermen receiving $1.75 a pound and had risen to $4 by the time the season closed.
State regulators opened the season for Dungeness crab on Nov. 15 for the central California district, which is Sonoma County and south.
Although the season will run through next July, the vast bulk of the crab will be caught within the first two months of the season, after which the catch dwindles considerably.
Tony Anello, a crab fisherman whose family owns the Crab Shack in Bodega Bay, said local fishermen were undercut by the Oregon boats, who fish off the North Coast because their season is not open yet.
"It is not a real fair price. We are going for lower than it should be," Anello said. "We should have 25 cents more. We are not happy with it, but we are forced to go because the northern boats would catch all the crab."
The amount of crab is expected to be abundant, following the 2010-2011 season that ended in July, during which 19 million pounds of crab were caught in the central California district.
The crab this year are also of good quality, with 25 percent meat content per weight, according to a test of crab in a special catch off Bodega Bay and San Francisco last week.
North of Sonoma County, however, the season has been delayed at least until Dec. 15 because of poor crab quality. A test of the crab this week will decide if the season will be postponed even longer by the state Department of Fish and Game to give crab more time to grow.
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