By Samuel Strait, Report at Large

Normally this time of the year so shortly after the beginning of the
Dungeness Crab season the Crescent City harbor is bustling with frantic
activity as commercial fishermen get the last of their crab gear loaded
and into the waters off Crescent City.  The fuel dock is busy and boats
are normally lined up to deliver fresh crab to the buyers scattered
around the harbor.  Not this year though.  It is as if something has
happened and nobody quite knows what to make of it.  Most of the larger
boats are gone.  Many of the mid sized to smaller boats are remaining at
the dock as if some storm or bad weather was brewing off shore.  There
are few trucks in  the inner basin’s parking lot, and no one seems to be
working on their vessels in preparation.  The crab buyer’s hoists are
unencumbered and no semi’s await at the docks for fresh crab. Our local
fish processors show no activity.  On the surface it appears that no one
got the memo that crab season is one of the most important yearly events
for local commercial fishermen as well as it is for those from further a
field.  Typically millions of pounds of fresh crab cross the docks in
the first week of the season, and Crescent City gets a welcome mid
winter boost to its economy.  Many of our local fishermen fill their
bank accounts meant to last over the slow times in between seasons.  So,
what is going on?

The fact of the matter is that this year’s crab population is either on
vacation somewhere else, or there simply isn’t many to be harvested in
the first place.  Seems strange after two consecutively good seasons,
2018 and 2019, that this season should be so poor, particularly after a
year of bad economic news due to government mandates over the Covid-19
virus.  Not something that any one should be pleased about.  The money
from commercial fishing has gradually declined over the past couple of
decades, where it once was a huge part of the local economy.  Shrimp,
rock cod and salmon have also felt the bite of less than prosperous
seasons, hopefully it is not the same story for Dungeness crab fishing.

What also comes to mind is that our local harbor’s health is entwined
with commercial fishing and poor landings reflect poorly on the harbor’s
financial health.  Granted the harbor can lean on the income from 2018’s
passage of Measure C, but it appears that the harbor has not factored in
lean times from commercial fishing and has spent money on projects that
less reflect the harbor’s commercial fishing which is important as
well.  When Measure C was passed the harbor talked about loans
outstanding and a massive outlay necessary for deferred maintenance in
the harbor.  I wonder where all those good intentions went in the face
of solar panels and charging stations?

The Crescent City Harbor appears to have become separated from its
original mission to be a functional working harbor instead of the
current board’s dream of the Santa Cruz Board Walk.  Ferris wheel any
one?  Unfortunately poor fishing seasons and smaller landing may be a
sign of the future as well as the decline in revenue that the harbor
receives from it, yet until commercial fishing is pronounced to be dead
and buried, the harbor board should be focused on, or pretend to be
focused on the “working” part rather than the seasonal tourist trade.

6 thoughts on “Part 1: Harbor – It’s Crab Season, But NO Crabs”
  1. I think Jay has a excellent Idea we have a Beautiful Harbor with just a few Restaurants …. go to Brookings and see what they have to offer … we need gift shops , art galleries, benches for people to sit on , a Coffee Shop, A ice cream shop like Brookings has …. why are we so behind the times?

    1. Come on Leslie, the answer is so obvious, the price of gasoline and sales tax to name two of the biggest hurdles. Then comes regulation, the Coastal Commission, and militant environmentalism need I say more. Unfortunately, California and local authorities have made it extremely difficult for any new investors to be successful in California when it comes to small business. They simply do not have the power of money to force their way past all the obstacles government throws in their way.

  2. The Harbor can be both a working harbor and one that attracts visitors. Both Noyo and Brookings-Harbor are examples. Your idea of a Ferris wheel is great if placed away from the working areas, perhaps near Whaler’s Island. Can you imagine the view of the harbor, the ocean, the town, and the surrounding trees from the top of the wheel? And it can be operated by a concessionaire that could develop a Crescent City version of San Pedro’s Ports of Call running the length of Anchor Way from from roughly the House of Jambalaya to Whaler’s Island.

    1. Great idea, but you need something that will draw tourists to the harbor. Shops, restaurants and activities. None of which the harbor has to the extent necessary for it to be the destination it could be. The current board seems to be more interested in things that neither focus on a working Harbor or the effort to attract tourists. So how do you get that to happen?

      1. The money would come from the developer of a Ports Of Call type projects. The Harbor board should send out Requests For Proposals to developers that have done such projects elsewhere, and then give the successful candidate a long lease so that such an investment is beneficial to both the developer and the Harbor.

        1. In order for that to happen there has to be some sort of incentive for a developer to take the risk. Developers in this county and the rest of California no longer have that incentive or the expectation of making a profit. So at this point what is left for them? Is the harbor going to give them the incentive? Probably not, but if they have such a commodity, what is it? There has to be a reason for a developer to come in and spend the money that the current commission is willing to negotiate, otherwise it is a good idea that is dead on the vine.

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