Safe Coast Seafoods

San Francisco Dungeness Crab Season to Open December 29

San Francisco Dungeness Crab will be a late Christmas gift, but one worth waiting for.

The 2021-2022 Crab season is finally opening in San Francisco.

The California Dungeness Crab Seasons in the northern and southern counties opened on December 1st, but the fishery in San Francisco didn’t make the starting line-up. However, yesterday’s declaration by The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) gave the green light for Bay Area crab fishermen to start limbering up.

When will Dungeness Crab Season open in San Francisco?

Yesterday, Director Bonham of the CDFW stated in his declaration:

“The commercial fishery will open in [the Bay Area]… at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, December 29, 2021, with a pre-soak period to begin at 8:01 a.m. on Sunday, December 26, 2021.”

This is a big win for local fishermen and processors, who have been negotiating with regulators to open local waters for weeks–and they’ve gone about this the right way. 

man cutting up bait
A deckhand preparing bait for the San Francisco Dungeness Crab Season.

While the earliest opening day they could have pushed for was the December 22nd, fishermen preferred a later date, giving them time to get their boats and crab pots ready.

The possibility of having crab by Christmas was an exciting prospect for processors as well, but they found it unfavorable in the end, knowing they would be short-staffed in the days leading up to Christmas. Max Boland, General Manager of Safe Coast Seafoods explained, “there just wouldn’t be enough resources to move that volume of product right before the holiday.” 

Another benefit of waiting till December 29th: the whales have even more time to migrate out of the area.

Whales and the San Francisco Dungeness Crab Season Delay

Regulators have always been tasked with striking the right balance between protecting humpback whales and providing fishing opportunities to fishermen.

For the last few years, CDFW has held the crab season closed in San Francisco due to the presence of Humpback Whales in local waters. These assessments, conducted in compliance with the Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program (RAMP), were implemented in 2020 to identify and respond to elevated risk of whales getting entangled in crab fishing gear. RAMP assessments performed by the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group (Working Group) and other parties inform the CDFW Director’s decision of whether to open crab season in each zone.

RAMP assessments conducted in early November showed 73 Humpback whales in Fishing Zone 3, where the San Francisco Dungeness Crab Fishery is located. This months assessment found only 33, and even more whales are expected migrate out of the area by the 29th.

A Recent History: Dungeness Crab Season in San Francisco

This isn’t the first year we’ve had to wait for Dungeness Crab in San Francisco.

The local crab season has had its fair share of delays, mostly due to unsafe levels of Domoic Acid, a bio toxin found in Dungeness Crab. Domoic Acid levels are measured closely by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and when Domoic Acid concentrations reach an unsafe level, Dungeness Crab season is delayed until concentrations return to safe consumption levels.

Domoic Acid is more prevalent in years where the ocean temperatures are warmer. Warmer water temperatures in 2014, 2015, and 2016 spurred a string of crab season delays due to Domoic Acid for years to come. These delayed seasons have been difficult for fishing families, communities, and businesses around Pier 45 and beyond.

This year is different.

2021 saw the rise of a La Nina event, a period of time characterized by colder ocean temperatures. As a result, Domoic Acid tests passed with flying colors. As for the whales, fishermen and processors argued that seeing this high of a Humpback whale count could be an indicator that the endangered species isn’t really that endangered anymore. As cheeky as this observation is, it is consistent with the humpback whale population growth cited by some recent surveys.

Still, fishermen have gone to great lengths to protect the whales in recent years, switching up their gear to reduce entanglement risk, avoiding depths and areas as advised by the CDFW, and adhering to best practices put forth by the Working Group. 

These factors influenced the decision to open up the San Francisco Dungeness Crab Season on December 29th.

man transporting dungeness crab pots with forklift
John Barnett of “The Amigo” loading up his new crab pots.

New Year’s Crab

The gift of local Dungeness Crab is wrapped up and ready to be opened. The tag reads, “don’t open till after Christmas.” But to crab lovers around the Bay, it’s a present definitely worth waiting for.

At Safe Coast Seafoods, we supply Dungeness Crab to markets and distributors worldwide. Take care of your customers this season and give us your Dungeness Crab order! (888) 909-6889


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