The Port of San Francisco is poised to provide some financial relief to Dungeness crab fishermen following the delay the commercial season due to a toxic algae bloom along the West Coast.
The Crab Industry Relief Plan, which will go before the Port Commission for approval Tuesday, would allocate more than $128,000 for small businesses, fishermen and deckhands that have been impacted by the lack of a crab season this winter.
Both the commercial and recreational Dungeness crab seasons were set to open in November. But for the first time in recent memory, high levels of domoic acid prompted delays to the start of fishing seasons for crustaceans in California.
Though there is a chance the commercial crab season could still open this year, the impact on the delayed season has already been disastrous for fishermen who earn the bulk of their crab revenue from November to January, Port officials wrote in a staff report.
The relief plan would suspend Port rental charges from February through April for crab receivers, costing the Port about $100,000. The 50 crab boats that pay an average monthly berthing fee of $93.22 and the 30 tenants who pay storage fees would have those fees suspended for those three months as well, costing the Port about $28,000.
“…Many of the Port’s crab owners and crab receivers have been pushed to the financial brink,” Port officials wrote in the staff report. “Even if levels of domoic acid were to decrease to acceptable levels and the commercial season was to open, which at this point remains unlikely, the financial impacts on the local industry have already been devastating.”
The fishing industry generates about $2.35 million in revenue for the Port each year, including more than $1 million in taxes for The City, according to a 2001 Port economic impact study of the San Francisco fishing industry. In addition to crab, the main fishing seasons include salmon from April to the fall, and herring from December to February.