Crabbers on the Buck & Ann haul pots on the Coast.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN CORBIN
Al Pazar has been a crab fisherman on the Oregon Coast since 1975 so it didn’t take him long to realize that the 2009-2010 season was going to be good. By noon on the first day of the fishery season in December his 50-foot boat, the Delma Ann, was fully loaded and headed to port. That boatload was followed by five more in quick succession and by the time Pazar and his three crew members came up for air they had caught 110,000 pounds of Dungeness crab, worth nearly $200,000.
“Our crewmen all had a good Christmas,” says Pazar. “Their kids got some nice presents under the tree.”
Oregon fishermen caught about 16 million pounds of Dungeness crabs in December. That’s 3 million pounds more than they caught in the entire eight-month season a year ago. Unseasonably calm seas allowed smaller boats to share in the bounty, and the crabs have been plentiful and meaty. Using a multiplier of two, the economic impact of the state’s Dungeness fishery in December alone was about $55 million, a welcome jolt for coastal towns from Astoria to Brookings.
“A lot of guys really needed this season,” says Pazar. His strong December ensures that the restaurant and seafood shop he runs with his wife Pam in Florence, the Krab Kettle, will be well stocked through the winter. He’ll also be able to invest in maintenance and new equipment for the boat he has operated since 1983.
Dean Fleck of Englund Marine Supply in Newport says he has been selling more depth sounders, rain pants and fishing boots this season than usual, and he’s hearing similar news throughout the business community. “The money the crab fishermen earn trickles its way through the entire economy around here,” he says.
John Corbin, who runs the 56-foot Buck & Ann and is part owner of the 78-foot Northern Endurance, says, “After this season you’ll see a lot of boat owners spending money at the gear stores and the shipyards. There’ll be a lot of guys doing home improvements and buying new pickup trucks.”
Corbin’s big purchase with his early Dungeness earnings was a natural-gas-powered generator for the next power outage on the Coast. As for Pazar, his money is going the same place it’s been going since his two kids began attending private colleges. “I don’t go out and buy new pickup trucks or take trips to Vegas,” he says. “I write tuition checks.”