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. lou50

    there is aways a scab in the wood pile. the good side is there will be more to reproduce making even more to drive the price down next year.

    November 23, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. gung hoe

    Howdy bobcat in a hat of boiling water doin peachy catter thanks to donna Shes the voice of sanity around here

    November 23, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. EQ620

    I guess instead of getting $2 a pound, they will get nothing then. Doesn't sound too smart to me.

    November 23, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BRB San Deigo

    Just bait and fuel are a deal breaker. Competent deckhands are also not free. Everyone gets a share of the $2.00 crab that costs around $10-12 in the market after all the middlemen. Crabbers need to start a co-op, hire a dealer, set up a market, and sell direct from several strategic locations. That is what the farmer's markets are about; fishermen would rather dump their catch at the dock, take the cash offered, and go get drunk.

    November 23, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • balls

      Which would just make it that much easier for processors to bribe or pressure the dealer

      November 24, 2011 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
  5. Guest

    Thats not true
    I have crabs

    November 23, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Denbot

    Crabbers have to build and repair gear pre-season without pay. There are no guarantees on catch, you have to make the entire winter's income in a very short tme, between openings, and storms. The hours are incredibly long, the conditions are very harsh, and the work is an order of magnitude more dangerous then police or firefighter work. The men and women who go to sea deserve to sell their catch at the highest level the market will bare.

    November 23, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joey Isotta Fraschini

    Why not have deer for Thanksgiving instead?

    November 23, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • a slozomby

      the hippies around here would have a heart attack if you tried to feed them venison.

      November 24, 2011 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
  8. heather

    How far out do tbey have to go for these crabs? I have been crabbing on the east coast and it is really, really easy. You just tie strings around pieces of rotting chicken and the minute the tide changes, you throw them overboard. You then pull the chicken back up, right away, rip the crabs off of the chicken and throw the chicken back overboard. This only goes on for about a half hour and you are donr. You only have to get far enough away from the shore that you can't see it. Something about the tide changing disorients the crabs. It is not like they are fishing in Alaska. I want to hear more about their difficulties and cost. This could easily be just strong arming by the fishermen.

    November 23, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Being from the Northern Coast of California (not the bay area, think 6 hours north), I understand what crabbing involves. Treacherous seas, nasty wind, and extremely high fuel costs. Also by the way, catching Dungeness involves traps, cables, and winch systems. It's not just "throw some chicken on a string over and reel it back in". You wanna get good crab, you better be willing to go anywhere from 1-16 miles off shore, in full on storms. I like to fish, but you'll never find me crabbing, it's too dangerous. Many lives are lost in this dangerous occupation, so pony up the extra cash and be grateful for the crabbers who bring you delicious crustaceans.

      November 24, 2011 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • JAMES

      I am with John on this one. Crabbing in No.Ca. is dangerous and there are bad seasons as well as good. The buyers have been hosing the fishermen for too long already – time to pay the piper. It is not as easy as tying a chicken to a rope and the traps are not cheap, nor is the gas to fuel the boat. I wish the best for all and a safe season for the crabbers.

      November 24, 2011 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
    • a slozomby

      thats fine for catching a few crabs. now try and fill a boat hold that way.

      November 24, 2011 at 2:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      I've gone crabbing in Coos Bay, Oregon the same way. Only a small number of crabs get that close to shore. That's why commercial fishers don't fish that way; there is not enough catch. The great majority of crabs are in deep water far from shore. It is hard work, it is very dangerous and the costs are enormous. $2.50 is a bargain for what it takes to bring it in.

      November 24, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  9. s kel

    I love my little crabs in my pants , i have several crab familys livingdown on my genatils in my hair down there , they are with me for life . I love my crabs.....

    November 23, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. valwayne

    This really doesn't make much sense to me. Their seems to be a large demand so if the processors can charge enough to pay the fisherman $2.50 a pound and still make a profit why wouldn't they? Unless of course they can't charge enough to pay $2.50 a pound and make a profit? When I took economics all of the theories and models we discussed assumed that people were rational. I don't think an of them assume that people would just be idiots and choose to loose money! On the other hand Obama has run our nation the last 3 years in a totally irrational way that is driving us to a debt collapse, or worse! If our White House can act insane economically why not Northern California?

    November 24, 2011 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. Ryan

    If the crabbers can make it on 1.75 last year there is no reason 2.00 is not going to work. The fuel prices haven't changed that much since a year ago. And they aren't hurting for money that bad if they don't want to go work. Wish i had a crab boat right no ...the sea would be mine!

    November 24, 2011 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      I guess you don't drive a car if you think fuel prices haven't gone up much. The cost of everything has gone up. Seafood has gone through the roof, mostly because of the fuel costs for the boats. The only thing staying flat is wages. Luckily for the fishermen, the processors can't export their jobs to Asia. They have to hire where the fish are. Fishing is hard and dangerous. They deserve to be paid decently.

      November 24, 2011 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  12. raven

    Weve got crablegs!!

    November 24, 2011 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
  13. Karen S.

    Not entirely true. Santa Cruz crabgbers are going out and selling off the docks or to local restaurants. we just bought two today (Weds) from our local restaraunt/ fish market.

    November 24, 2011 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
  14. DesMoiner

    So just pass the cost onto's 50 freaking cents a pound. Lets face it, it's a luxury item not a staple. If there is enough demand (and it seems like there is since it's SOOOOO important), they'll pay, especially if the distributors are united (collusive) in pricing.

    November 24, 2011 at 7:04 am | Report abuse |
  15. Sagebrush Shorty

    And no toy in your Thanksgiving Happy Meal.

    November 24, 2011 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Liberty or Death

      It might be a blessing in disguise. The Fukushima nuclear reactors (all 5 of them) are spewing out millions of gallons of contaminated and toxic radiation into the Pacific Ocean. I would not even try and consume seafood from the west coast. In fact, most of the food on the west coast has a good probability of contamination. Ignorance, in this case, is not bliss.

      Do your own research people. BTW, Happy Thanksgiving...

      November 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
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