Californians not getting their Thanksgiving crabs
Crabs were ready for the pot last Thanksgiving season in San Francisco.
November 23rd, 2011
12:47 PM ET

Californians not getting their Thanksgiving crabs

A couple of turkeys got a Thanksgiving pardon from President Obama at the White House on Wednesday, but beneath the Pacific Ocean, thousands and thousands of crabs will be around for a holiday they normally experience from a pot and a plate.

Dungeness crab have traditionally been served on Northern California tables along with the turkey and trimmings for Thanksgiving. This year, however, a price dispute between crab fishermen and processors has left market shelves and restaurant menus bereft of the crustaceans, according to media reports from the Bay Area.

Crab fishermen want $2.50 a pound for their catch, but processors are offering only $2, so the fishermen are staying in port, and traps aren't going into the sea, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

"I feel terrible, because I know everyone loves Thanksgiving crab, but we can't work for nothing," Larry Collins, head of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association, told the Chronicle.

"We're pretty united on this. We can't go unless we all go," he said of the 150 or so crab fishermen on the Northern California coast, according to the Chronicle.

"We are hearing nothing but stories about how this is throwing a monkey wrench into Thanksgiving Day plans. Usually, these disputes last a day or two, but not this long," Keith Fraser, co-owner of Loch Lomond Marina in San Rafael, told the Marin Independent Journal.

"We have hundreds of people asking for crab, and we are disappointing them all," Fraser is quoted as saying.

Fishermen were paid $1.75 a pound last year, according to the Chronicle, but say they need $2.50 this year due to rising costs for fuel, traps and bait.

Joe Cincotto, regional general manager for Pacific Fresh Seafood, told the Marin paper that processors face higher costs, too, and he had little sympathy for the plight of the fishermen.

"I don't think many people are going out and making $10,000 or $15,000 in a day," he told the Independent Journal. "When's enough enough?"

So while the argument continues, most consumers do without.

"They're surprised because it's the first time that we don't have crab for Thanksgiving week," Herson Sariles, seafood team leader at Whole Foods in Monterey, told the Herald of Monterey County. "Actually, besides turkey and pies, for that week I would say it's the third item that people are looking for."

While most shoppers will have to do without Dungeness, customers of the Sea Harvest markets may get lucky.

Owner Lynn Platt told The Herald that the family fishing business run by her brother Richard Deyerle has a few boats in the water and is getting some small supplies to the Sea Harvest markets.

But while Deyerle is happy for his business, he feels for the community as a whole.

"It's awful. There's no volume, so it just creates ill feelings with everyone. We have crabs. That's great. But I don't want bad feelings with people. It's a tricky situation," The Herald quotes him as saying.

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Filed under: Aquaculture • Business • California • Economy • Food • Thanksgiving
soundoff (85 Responses)
  1. TroothDekay

    This "tradition" is limited to the SF, Marin and smaller seaside communities in the North. By default, the rest of us Californians - even in the East Bay - aren't going to be bothered by a paucity of Dungeness crab at market.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. BOMBO

    What does California law say about the fishermen selling direct to consumers on the dock? I'd pay $2.50 per pound for fresh crab.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      They do that already, but nothing has been available so far. We're going to try again this weekend. Crab runs $2.50 a pound when you buy it from the boat.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO

      Good to hear they're doing that, or trying to. It's the nature of capitalism, isn't it. If one customer won't pay you a fair price, look for someone who will.

      November 23, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. cpc65

    I see a Mexican fishing fleet on the southern horizon.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Richard

    I detest unions. These thugs would pummel any independent fisherman who tried to go out despite their strike.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • tldixon

      you're not special-everybody wants everything cheap and easy but what about the folks on the ground or water actually doing the work?get over yourself

      November 23, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    Top o the afternoon to you, too, gung hoe.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. @Richard

    I'm sure unions detest you too, Dick.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. banasy©

    @chrissy:
    I know you're having lasagna tomorrow, is seafood an Italian tradition too?
    Just wondering...

    November 23, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      Italy is surrounded by water on 3 sides I'm sure seafood has a place in their tradition. The St Joseph Sicilian altars are meatless.

      November 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. gung hoe

    Well if it runs 2,50 lb at the boat,how do they think their buyers are going to pay that and sell it where is the profit for the buyers.The buyers have to have a profit margin on what they buy

    November 23, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. gung hoe

    But then again me being the independant sort ,if I was a fisherman why would I want to sell my product for 2.00lb when I can sell my product at the dock for 2.50lb .It dont take a rocket scientist to figure out where to sell the product!!

    November 23, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. lhpogo

    I've lived in California all my life, both Northern and Southern, and always by the ocean. I've never seen a Thanksgiving Crab dish. Crab cakes around Christmas and New Years? Sure. Thanksgiving? Never.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bobcat (in a hat)

    Hey gung hoe, how ya doin ?
    chrissy, don't let Garfield know you're having lasagnn.
    banasy, love your squarepants gig.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)

      meant lasagna

      November 23, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. liz

    15000 a day is not enough if you have to risk your life in the sea.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • tldixon

      thank you!

      November 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. electricgrendel

    Well- if the "market" demands that CEO's get paid 300x the entry level worker's pay because of their much vaunted skills and connections, I don't see why fisherman cannot demand 2.50 a pound for their time, equipment and fishing expertise. If you don't like that, then you hate capitalism. 🙂 But- capitalism is only supposed to benefit white collar workers and not blue collar workers, right?

    November 23, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • tldixon

      alright now...who is letting all these sane people comment? this simply won't do...

      November 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rick Springfield

    Oh, California has palenty of crabs... Nothing that a good antibiotic couldn't cure. As for not fishing, that will help the ecosystem recover from over fishing. It will wind up with a larger and more robust future crop. In the end, its all good.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • tldixon

      HEY! who let a voice of sanity in here?

      November 23, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mmmmm

    I SAY PAY DAH MAN!

    November 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
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