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If you were planning on Dungeness crab for Christmas dinner, better defrost a turkey instead.

The Bay Area’s already-delayed commercial crab season was supposed to start tomorrow, Dec. 23, but it may be delayed yet again, this time due to price negotiations between crab fishermen and seafood processing companies.

The original delay by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in mid-November was to protect migrating whales from getting entangled in fishing lines.

This time, it’s a price war that is putting the season on hold. And with discussions and negotiations still unfolding, it’s unclear when you’ll be able to find Dungeness crab at your local grocery store or fish market, says Max Boland, general manager of Safe Coast Seafoods, a crab supplier on San Francisco’s Pier 45.

“There’s a large seafood processing company that wants to offer crabbers in the mid-$2 range per pound wholesale,” Boland says. “The fishermen are asking for something in the mid-$3 range.”

They’ll probably agree on something in between, Boland says. Last year, the wholesale price was set at $3 per pound. The retail price range for Dungeness crab can run anywhere from $7 to $20 per pound, depending on the market.

The price negotiations come during an already challenging year for crabbers, following the pandemic, which put a strain on crews, and a major fire earlier this year at Fisherman’s Wharf. Even if negotiations are resolved quickly, the high seas and southerly winds expected later this week may also deter crab fishermen from dropping their pots too soon.

“Certainly rough weather is a concern for the fleet,” says Ryan Bartling, a spokesperson for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Safety needs to come first.”

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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