Fresh Monterey Bay crab will have to wait for most people this winter.
(Courtesy John Teeple)
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Crab standoff continues as California fishing fleet remains unified on price

Price negotiations between California crab fishermen and their biggest customers — large seafood processing plants — have stalled. The fishing fleet is standing united in an informal strike, ongoing since Dec. 23: No one is going out until an agreement is reached.

Dave Toriumi, a local fisherman who is part of the informal organization of fishing boats in Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, says that the fleet came down in price and made a lower offer on Tuesday, but that they haven’t heard a word from their big customers since then. Only one smaller, specialty company has made a counter-offer, but the fleet is waiting to hear from the bigger buyers.

A source close to the negotiations said the fisherman came down from $3.30 to $3.25 per pound, but Pacific Choice Seafood, a large seafood processing company and one of the most prominent of their buyers, hasn’t budged from $2.50.

Toriumi said they are yet to hear any counter offer or other word from Pacific since the fleet made its offer on Tuesday. Pacific Choice Seafood could not immediately be reached for comment.

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While fishermen up and down the coast wait for the price to be settled, they are making an effort to coordinate a unified front in the negotiations and in the actual fishing season.

Representatives from several ports around the Monterey and San Francisco Bay Areas released a statement earlier this week, saying the fleet has come to a “gentleman’s agreement to reject a ‘shotgun start’ out of local ports.” A shotgun start is what would happen if all the fishing boats up and down the coast race out to place their traps at the moment a price is reached.

Without an agreement, the group says, fishermen worry that “the season they long to open may do so not only at a historically low price but amidst chaos and danger.”

Instead of a shotgun start, a meeting will be held within 24 hours of the Oregon fleet beginning to fish, in which the California fleet will decide to officially start fishing.

The fisherman said in their statement that the plan is for gear to be set two days after the meeting, and for “local crabs to be available in the Bay Area a few days after that.” They noted that this agreement represents “an extraordinary level of unity among a traditionally diverse fleet.”

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