Keep our LOCAL FISHERMEN Employed.
Update: February 2016
The most recent crab testing still shows unsafe levels of domoic acid. For fishing to resume, levels not only need to be lower in the next test but also lower for the next two tests after that; only then will Fish and Game deem this seafood safe to eat. (These tests are conducted on a weekly basis). When that happens, commercial fishermen still won’t be able to fish because sport fishermen have always been given at least one week to fish before allowing the commercial boats to go out.
It looks like the proposed mid-February opening date will now most likely be early March. Aside from the strong seas present in March, any crab left in the area will be spawning and worse molting, (shedding their shells) which drops their overall value. Add that to the fact that crab fishing in March is not desirable. The fishermen will be lucky to get 1 or 2 crabs in a pot where normally they would get 10-18 or more. It costs more in fuel and bait than they will likely make back to venture out at all.
Combining last year's crab run which was historically poor, with this year's disaster, our local crab fishermen are in dire straits.
The issue is now with our legislators in Sacramento, and hopefully, emergency funds will be available for fishermen to apply for in 8 to 10 months. NOTE: Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation & Management Act fishermen need to show a loss of 80% of their income to be eligible for assistance. They clearly qualify.
However, it can take two or more months to get emergency funds approved and voted on, and then an additional 6-8 months before the fishermen could see any financial help.
There is a very important point for all of us living in the Bay Area to understand. 90% or our fresh local seafood comes from our small boat fishing fleet. Without them, quality goes way down, and prices go up. Our local fishermen hire many more people and boost the local economy throughout the year, unlike the larger corporate boats that come and go only when the fishing is good.
Local fishermen go back to their docks daily and unload their catch whereas the big boats stay out in the water for weeks lowering the quality and freshness of the seafood they provide.
There is little argument that if you love fresh locally caught sustainable seafood, we need our local small boat fleet to stay in place and survive this unprecedented disaster. Please help us by writing a letter to your congressperson and help allow our fishermen to keep providing all that they do to better our community.
Patti Grant, Tina Miles, Jason Fruwirth, Brian Withycombe, and Lisa Battle
Pillar Point Harbor
The Northern California Fishing Industry and all the other industries that rely on it for their livelihood are in for some extremely hard times. Spirited Cause has investigated the issues that are at play here and there is more going on than the media has entirely covered. Many Bay Area individuals depend on the local fishing industry for their very survival. So far not much has been done to avoid what could turn into a much larger problem if not addressed soon. Let's look at what has taken place and what you can do to help.
As has been well reported, this year's crab season has been put on hold. The problem stems from the movement of a warm water current from the equator known as" El Nino" that brought with it not only a rise in water temperatures but also created the conditions for the formation of toxic algae bloom known as a "Red Tide". While red tides come and go naturally, this one is much larger, more persistent, and carries much higher levels of neurotoxins. This current algae bloom is well beyond safe levels of domoic acid that is harmful to people, fish, and marine life. It accumulates in anchovies, sardines, and other small fish as well as crab and shellfish that eat the algae. Many varieties of marine mammals and fish-eating birds, in turn, can get sick from eating the contaminated fish. In people, it can trigger amnesic shellfish poisoning, which can cause permanent loss of short-term memory and in severe cases even death. Thankfully in time when cold waters return to Northern California, the buildup of domoic acid in the sea life will dissipate. At that point the fish and shellfish are safe to eat again. Since the last test only days ago, levels remain high which is creating the perfect storm of events that could cripple our regional fishing community.
Local crab fishermen had been through red tide alerts before and survived. With the global water temperatures on the rise, they are becoming more common than in the past. However, this year's Tide Bloom is unprecedented and has shown little evidence of fully receding. It has completely wiped out all the big markets for the year. They lost the celebrations of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve and the upcoming Super Bowl. These markets are the backbone of this industry and supply them with the funds needed to get them through the year. If and when crab fishing comes back in February sometime ( assuming it does ) the adjusted market price they will likely get that late in the season, hardly covers the fuel and labor costs to fish in the first place. Add that to the fact that most of us more than likely won't be buying crab this year with all the bad press it has received, making this crab season a complete failure. Because of what has occurred, even our international markets will be taking a pause and looking elsewhere for crab this year.
To make matters worse, in an average year when crab prices fall late season, most crab fishermen switch to fishing for salmon. This year's outlook does not look good. The west coast drought has made it hard for salmon to get to their natural spawning grounds. The numbers are way down and even the best estimates don't look great.
As stated by one local crab fisherman, Jeff Finth...
"When it finally opens everyone has to go out regardless
because there is no federal funding to help us.
February and March are the worst months
we could ever have on that ocean and it is going to be
terrible. It is the Deadliest Catch California
except in much smaller boats."
Capsizing, getting swamped by giant waves or getting thrown
overboard is an enormous threat to all who try
and fish in February or March.
Hit now with months of no income and little ways to make up their losses going forward, local fishermen are in trouble and need our help. Most have boat dock fees, boat payments, insurance, commercial fishing license fees, crab trap storage, on top of all the expected costs of living one's life. Miss any of these and the repercussions are not good. Miss your renewal license fees due in March and you lose those licenses for good. You can no longer fish unless you obtain a new commercial license which can cost 10's of thousands of dollars. Without a commercial fishing license, your boat value drops as well.
Other businesses like restaurants, hotels, stores, gift shops, are also all impacted. Many of these enterprises have things in place to weather this storm.
Fishermen, on the other hand, do not have many resources to help them. Because the red tide and drought are natural causes and not man-made like the Bay Oil Spill of 2007, local fishermen are not eligible for state or federal assistance. The California Department of Fish and Game has few means to help out. In short our local fishermen are in trouble and isolated.
Most crab fishermen spent last summer investing a lot of money in new traps and equipment in anticipation of what was supposed to be a great crab season. They work these months without any income preparing for the coming season. They can weather small storms, but this one is enormous. They are tapped out. They need our help. Without it, many could lose their boats, and once that happens we all lose.
The facts are that when fishing is good, our local fishermen keep seafood prices down. Without them, we will pay more, and the quality will not be what we have all grown accustomed to enjoying.
Our local fishermen desperately need your help. They are not looking for a handout, just a helping hand. They work hard and are proud men and women, but need a lifeline to get them through this year. They don't make a lot of money even in a good year. They don't drive nice cars or own big houses, and most live on their boats. They simply labor year after year to supply us with fresh, local sustainable seafood at reasonable prices. Spirited Cause is here to help them.
This year's "El Nino" will pass and next November's crab season, in time, should help restore them back to some sense of normal. Let's help them get to the next season. If that happens, we all win!
Thank you for your DONATION!
Your donation will help our local fishermen stay afloat by providing the tools to aid in dock fees, reducing fishermen unemployment and boost this season's overall morale to keep our fishing industry thriving.