Oregon's Dungeness Crab season opened last month, and we all know what that means: tasty crustaceans for all. But this year, crabbers and eaters have a new reason to celebrate, as the fishery just became the first major crab fishery in the world (and the only one on the West Coast) to be certified “sustainable” by the Marine Stewardship Council. “The Oregon Dungeness crab fishery has demonstrated that they are a model fishery in terms of environmental sustainability and working hard to maintain and improve the overall health of the fishery,” said Kerry Coughlin, regional director for MSC Americas, in a press release.
Dungeness crab is the coast’s most valuable single-species fishery, with last year’s 23 million pound harvest having a landed value (to the boat) of $44.8 million. The crab fleet includes 425 limited-entry license holders who fish between mid-December and August, although the majority of the catch is made in the first eight weeks. The average boat fishes 300 to 500 pots in depths ranging from 30 to 600 feet. Only males meeting a minimum size standard are harvested, while undersized males and all females are returned to the water unharmed. The crab are harvested from the ocean floor, and each pot is on an individual line with a buoy on top, which means that since there is no linking of pots, they are never dragged, which would disturb the substrate.
The Oregon pink shrimp industry is also certified sustainable (since December 2007) due to its use of bycatch reduction devices (mandatory since 2002) that reduce the bycatch of species such as hake, sole, and rockfish. This makes the shrimp fishery one of the cleanest in the world in terms of bycatch, according to the Marine Stewardship Council.
So we can be proud both of our fish and our fishermen, who have worked hard to ensure good harvests for years to come while preserving these important species. And perhaps best of all, this means that we can prepare tasty meals using our local shrimp and crab with a clear conscience.
Meanwhile, in this issue, we bring you our annual collection of stories about Oregon Coast history. With stories on subjects ranging from gangsters and rumrunners to World War II conscientious objectors to the impressive technological wonder of building the Astoria-Megler Bridge and more, there should be plenty to keep you entertained. Enjoy!
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