Planning to kick off 2023 with a feast of freshly caught crab?
Good luck finding some.
Wet weather and rough conditions kept many crabbers from hitting the water Saturday, the eagerly anticipated opening of the Bay Area’s commercial crab season after a month and a half of delays. That means local Dungeness will likely be hard to come by at grocery stores, seafood markets and restaurants this New Year’s weekend. And the crab that is available will be pricey.
At Monterey Fish Market in Berkeley, locally caught crab isn’t expected to arrive until next week.
“We weren’t able to get the local because of the weather,” said fishmonger Alex Cornejo. “It’s pretty crazy out there right now.”
The same is true for Sincere Seafood, a wholesaler in Oakland. Piedmont Grocery Store in Oakland, Zanotto’s Family Market in San Jose and Draeger’s Market in Los Altos also anticipate having to wait for deliveries.
“We do have Dungeness, but it’s not going to be local,” said Thomas Ligthart, a meat cutter with Draeger’s. “We’re expecting it won’t be until the first few days of January.”
Draeger’s was selling imported Dungeness from Washington for around $30 a pound, almost double the normal price. Supply chain problems and crabbing restrictions have sent retail prices soaring this holiday season.
Ligthart said that when he does receive local crab, it could go for around $15 a pound, about 30% more than usual. But the price depends on how many crustaceans crabbers can bring to market as rainy weather puts a damper on the season opening.
State officials had postponed crab season — normally starting on Nov. 15 — three times this year before finally giving crabbers the green light to hoist up crustaceans in their traps starting just after midnight Dec. 31. It’s the fourth consecutive year of delays to protect migrating whales from getting entangled in fishing gear.
At Pier 45 in San Francisco, the Chasin’ Crustacean was the lone boat offloading its catch midmorning Saturday. But the haul was good.
“Our boat brought in just over a couple thousand pounds,” said Kenny Belov, owner of the Two X Sea seafood company.
Belov said the wind died down enough Saturday morning for his crew to go out safely. He planned to sell his catch to local restaurants, hoping he and fellow crabbers find good deals on prices.
“They need it. They deserve it,” he said. “They went out and busted their butts in this weather to make sure we had crab on the 31st.”
Gina Larocca, an owner of Sabella and La Torre restaurant and seafood stand at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, was still waiting for her local Dungeness supplier to come through. She hoped to have the fresh-caught crab in time for New Year’s Day, but could only guarantee live Washington Dungeness.
“People do walk up and say I want your local crab,” Larocca said, “It’s just hard to know right now.”