Northern San Juan Crab Season Delayed Until August 20th
Recreational crab season opening delayed one week in northern San Juan Islands; additional late-season opportunity added
OLYMPIA – Recreational crab fishing in Marine Area 7 North (Gulf of Georgia) will open a week later than previously scheduled to allow additional time for crab shell conditions to improve, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
The area, originally scheduled to open Aug. 13, will now open Aug. 20.
Test fisheries are conducted annually to ensure that fisheries avoid opening before crab shells have had sufficient time to harden. Crab are extremely vulnerable during the soft-shell stage following a molt.
A recent test fishery in Marine Area 7 North indicated that nearly 40 percent of crab there were still below the criteria designed to protect crab, said Don Velasquez, a WDFW crustacean biologist. Soft-shelled crab are subject to high mortality rates associated with handling and other fisheries interactions, Velasquez said.
As a result, state and tribal co-managers agreed to delay planned commercial and recreational fisheries to allow additional time for crab to harden.
Historically, at least 80 percent of crab have hardened in the Strait of Georgia by mid-August, which is already later than other parts of Puget Sound.
“It’s unusual for so many crab to remain soft so late into the summer, but this delay should reduce potential impacts to vulnerable crab,” Velasquez said.
To offset lost opportunity from the delay, crabbing will be allowed seven days a week beginning Sept. 24 in both Marine Area 7 South and Marine Area 7 North. The switch to a seven-days-per-week fishery in these areas usually begins during the first week of October.
Other marine areas with winter crab seasons opening Oct. 1 will be announced at a later date.
Find additional information about Washington’s crab seasons, areas, and regulations on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/crab.