Fishermen ask state regulators to support limits

Fishermen ask state regulators to support limits on crab fishingBy TERENCE CHEA, Associated Press Writer
San Francisco fishermen took their campaign to tighten regulation on Dungeness crab fishing to state wildlife regulators on Friday, calling for limits on fishing gear to prevent the Central California fishery from being cleaned out early in the season.

The crabbers made their case to restrict the number of crab traps, or “pots,” to 250 per boat to the California Fish and Game Commission, which was meeting in Oakland this week.


“We need a more even playing field,” said John Clark, a San Francisco fisherman whose boat has about 50 traps. “I think the little guy should be given a chance to move up without being swallowed by Wal-Mart.”

But large boat owners and seafood processors argued against the 250-pot limit, claiming it would hurt consumers and fishermen who have invested in big vessels and fishing gear.

“You’ve invested all this money, and somebody wants to come and pull the rug out from under you,” said Dennis Sturgell, a fisherman from Warrenton, Ore., who owns a large boat. “Just picking 250 pots as a number for everyone just doesn’t work.”

Many San Francisco Bay area fishermen complain that a growing number of large commercial boats, some carrying more than 1,000 pots, have moved into the Central California crab fishery, which extends from Santa Cruz to Bodega Bay. The fishery attracts fishermen from the state’s far north coast, as well as Oregon and Washington, because it opens Nov. 15, two weeks earlier than fisheries further north.

“After the first two weeks, the season is pretty much over, even though it lasts until June, because all the crabs are gone,” said Zeke Grader, who heads the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “That means less crab for consumers, less crab for the local fleet and less crab for local processors.”

The state already regulates the number and type of fishing vessels, length of the season, type of gear used and the size and sex of crabs that can be harvested, but doesn’t set limits on traps.

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