Crab fisherman on strike for $3 a pound, should hold out for $6! Seafood tax a healthy idea.

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Another crab season is upon us, like last year it is far from “normal”. But then again, with respect to the global environment, normal is undergoing radical changes.

Last year the season was delayed for months due to toxic levels of domoic acid in crab flesh (along with many other sea creatures).

This year the agency tasked with regulating crab fishing, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife has sequentially opened small regions of the California Coast to fishing as domoic acid levels drop below safe thresholds.

Instead of one price negotiation at the beginning of the season, wholesale buyers have decided to hold new talks for each region that opens up for fishing.

Bodega Bay fisherman are none too happy about this and have gone on strike. Fisherman want $3 a pound, buyers are offering $2.75 a pound.

Crab fishing is a boom and bust proposition, a few good years followed by a few not so good years. Fisherman try to offset these declines with a good salmon season, though “good salmon season” is a bit of a contradiction in terms of late.

Humans have for decades damned rivers, denying these ancient fish the spawning grounds they need, diverted water from rivers to give farmers water so they can grow almonds, cotton, pistachios and other high margin crops in what was originally the California desert. Pesticide and Herbicide use, clear-cut logging and creek-side construction have further degraded the environment to the point of near extinction for many historically huge salmon runs.

Both Salmon runs and crab populations are under attack, by humans!

Instead of asking for $3 a pound, I advocate crab fisherman hold out for $6.

Give fisherman $3 for each pound and put the other $3 into a fund used to undo the damage we humans inflict on the sea with our insatiable appetite for, well, damn near everything.

Think of it like a carbon tax. The new crab tax.

Set aside money for people like myself and the legions of others that walk our beaches picking up the mess of plastic ropes, plastic bait jars, plastic foam floats, crab traps left on our beaches each crab season to be ground in to a plastic soup by wave action. A soup that becomes part of the food chain of the planet See this post from two years ago for images of what crab fishing does to Point Reyes National Seashore each year.

Human trash collected from Point Reyes beaches during six visits

Research on how to collect crabs without endangering whales could be funded with this crab tax.

Humpback Whale entangled in crab fishing gear Photo: E. Lyman/HWS and NOAA

Humpback Whale entangled in crab fishing gear

Thankfully California has for the first time enacted a law that allows crab fisherman to collect abandoned gear after the season closes to reduce these horrible entanglements (and often deaths) caused to whales and other sea-life.

Reports of recent entanglements:

After huge blue whale gets tangled in crab lines, Californians struggle with elaborate rescue mission

Daring rescue of whale off Farallones

While we are thinking clearly and proposing that human harvesting activities pay the true cost to the planet, let’s double the price of salmon and oysters, clams and mussels. Set aside money to be used to clean up the messes we have made, and then figure out how to stop making new messes as we feed ourselves.

Four damns are soon to come down on the Klammath River, opening up over 300 miles of historic spawning grounds to a salmon run completely wiped out 80 years ago. Let’s restore the natural river habitat that nature found worked, instead of trying to use science to build fast growing salmon.
Another view of this troubling news here.

In a few months the California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife will be holding a meeting to discuss Best Management Practices (BMP) for oyster growers in California. A long needed set of common sense rules for an industry that has historically been operated in a “wild west” sense, with lax or little oversight. Please watch this space for an announcement on where and when that meeting takes place so you can voice your support for common sense rules in all leases for use of public lands/waters to profit by private companies. Send me your email address if you’d like to be notified.

Let’s make sure that Tomales Bay looks more like this

Great and snowy egrets in flight. Tomales Bay, mouth of Walker Creek.


Instead of this

abandoned plastic trays


Commercial fishermen are extremely conscious of their impact

Click on the words above “Commercial fishermen are extremely conscious of their impact” to see this entire post.

The other day while visiting Spud Point at Bodega Bay, I noticed the signs you see below affixed to the railing along the harbor. Their poor condition led me to believe they have been there a long, long time.


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Since 2008, I have personally packed off Point Reyes Beaches:

miles of plastic rope

thousands of crab buoys (one very well known bodega fisherman demanded that I give them back to him, no charge, as they belonged to him. Reminding him that he abandoned them on the beach (they were now mine) and that I hauled them out on my back, I declined his offer. This same fisherman also apologized for his meth-addict brother (his words) who nearly ripped my head off when I offered to sell him back his gear for a fraction of what it cost him to build.)

hundreds of crab bait jars

hundreds of empty bleach bottles – It was only this spring that I learned why I find so many bleach bottles on the beach in the winter. Crab fisherman use pure bleach to dunk their buoys while out at sea to kill the marine growth on them. I witnessed a fisherman at Spud Point hauling dozens of gallons to his boat in a wheel barrow. I asked him about it and he told me he usually uses swimming pool bleach, it is stronger.

A friend of mine lives perhaps a 1/4 mile from the harbor at Bodega and frequently is overcome with the strong smell of bleach.

perhaps 7-8 commercial crab pots (they weigh 70-100 lbs., I leave them above the high water mark now)

It appears the same person who wrote the book on sustainable oyster farming in West Marin (where stewards of the land have deep respect for the waters they ply), also wrote the book on how to be a commercial fisherman who is “extremely conscious”.

Meriam-Webster defines conscious thusly: awake and able to understand what is happening around you.

This past year, California adopted rules used by Washington and Oregon with the hope of avoiding the mad dash to race out and catch every single crab as quickly as possible so nobody else can catch it. The jury is still out on whether it has had the intended effect.

Something needs to be done to reduce the huge and devastating effect wrought on the sea by these greedy, often drug addled fishermen. No doubt fishing is a difficult and dangerous job. When the name of the game is get it all now, any means are used to stay awake for days on end. I’ve been told that sitting in the back of the boat, pulling pots, breathing diesel fumes for hours and hours on end is how it is. If you want to stay awake, you take whatever you need: coffee, speed, meth.

Not all fishermen are greedy, nor drug addicts – likely a small fraction. But, with the amount of garbage left in the sea (who knows how many hundreds, thousands of miles of nylon rope lay on the bottom offshore), and on our local beaches (see below), we need more and stronger enforcement of the laws. We also need fishing regulations designed to reduce the “mad dash to catch it all now.” Perhaps of greatest importance, these conscious commercial fishermen need to self-monitor their ranks. And I don’t mean pulling the other guys’ pots, stealing his crabs, cutting the rope and dumping 25, 50 or 100 pots to the bottom just because he put his pots too close to “your” spot. I do mean not dumping bleach and bleach bottles in the sea, when you change out light bulbs, don’t toss the burned out bulb into the sea. Don’t put your gear where it is likely to be cut by tugs. Don’t leave your abandoned gear all over local beaches (or national seashores), come pick up your mess, and tell your fellow fisherman to not make a mess! Salmon fishermen need to stop shooting seals and sea lions.

This winter, as you enjoy your cracked crab, remember the hard work put in by fishermen, as well as the huge impact on this one and only planet we all call home.

Perhaps crab should be $40/pound, along with mandatory drug testing for all fishermen!

After looking over the images below, you’ll surely agree that “Commercial fishermen have played a very active role in causing lasting environmental damage.”


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Human trash collected from Point Reyes beaches during six visits

Human trash collected from Point Reyes beaches during six visits

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Commercial crab trap tags. Recognize anyone you know? I do.

Commercial crab trap tags. Recognize anyone you know? I do.