DUNGENESS CRAB – A BAY AREA TRADITION in 2020 total information
Dungeness Crab is the largest fishery on the West Coast, dating back to 1848 San Francisco when Crab was plentiful within the Bay. With no seasons or regulations, the crabs slowly became harder and harder to catch, by the early 1930’s crab could only be caught outside of the Golden Gate Bridge. By that time Crab, fishermen had started to organize and form the Crab Fishermen’s Protective Association which consisted of over 300 crab boats. The Association gave the fishermen some much-needed protection and organization, preventing them from being taken advantage of. In the mid-1930s the Association set up off the boat sails to the general public in order to combat the low prices that they were being offered by wholesalers. Crab fishermen didn’t see any real recognition or respect until the mid-1950’s when a Sicilian immigrant and crab salesman named Sam Alioto and his family began to dominate San Francisco politics. The Alioto’s established Dungeness Crab as a San Francisco staple. Crab fishing continues to be a tradition that the entire Bay Area prepares for every November when family and friends set dates to get together and feast on our local treasure.
Our Dungeness Crab is all sourced from local, small, day boats out of Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, and Bodega Bay. They are all sorted on the boat and only the largest-sized crabs are set aside for us, so you always know you are getting the biggest, meatiest, and freshest crabs on the market. All of our crabs are cooked the morning of delivery. We offer them whole and cracked and cleaned. Live crabs are available on special occasions (Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years) or with an order minimum and specific delivery instructions – please email us if you are interested.
Is Dungeness available all year?
Unfortunately not! Our local Dungeness season is usually open from mid-November (this year November 15th) until June; however, in recent years we have had more and more closures throughout the season. Two major issues cause closures of the crab season: algae blooms and protests overpricing.
Algae blooms are naturally occurring and usually predictable; however, sometimes an unexpected bloom will come close to threatening our crab, so preemptive measures are taken to close the season until the bloom has passed and crab is safe to eat.
The second issue threatening our Crab fishery centres around pricing disputes between processors and crab fishermen. These protests usually take place during the busiest time of the season over 25 cents per pound. The protests may seem frustrating; however, they are the result of crab fishermen organizing to ensure that they are getting a fair return for putting their life on the line – a tradition dating back to the mid-1930s.
Dungeness Crab can be found outside of the Golden Gate Bridge (no crab fishing allowed in the Bay) from shallow depths to hundreds of feet deep. Female crabs can lay up to 2.5 million eggs and can live up to 6 years, whereas males can live up to 12 years, and only males can be harvested. They are carnivores that feed on over 40 different sea species including clams, oysters, shrimp, and worms. Catching these guys is simple – they are caught using baited trap pots that are connected to a long line and buoy. The traps rest along the ocean floor until crabs are lured into the cage. They are then pulled up to the boat and (hopefully!) they are full of crab! Once all the pots are gathered and baited again, the boats return home. From there the crabs are brought to the docks, loaded in a refrigerated van, delivered (just 1 hour!) to our kitchen, cooked, packaged, and delivered in less than 24 hours!