Stephen Ellison

Crab Fishing Strike Taking a Toll on Fishers, Customers

A pier near Half Moon Bay that usually is packed with crab fishers selling their catch in early January was unusually quiet Monday as a strike nearly a week old kept the crab boats anchored.

The crabbers went on strike after a major seafood wholesaler began offering them $2.75 a pound rather than the negotiated price of $3 a pound.

The result is a second consecutive season of an abbreviated crab harvest, and it could be disastrous for some. Chris Eatinger, for one, spent his first work day of the year repairing his boat instead of out crab fishing.

"I was really hoping to go today," he said. "You know, the pots are in the water; they need a lot of work done to them. We need to be working."

But Eatinger and his fellow crab fishers from Half Moon Bay to Canada are tied up. Though paying the wholesaler's lesser price would be a huge financial burden, Eatinger said the strike is costing him more.

"A thousand-plus a day," he said. "Probably a couple thousand a day."

It's not a good start for crabbers trying to make up for a costly late start to last season due to a crab-fishing ban.

"It cost me $46,000 out of pocket to keep things afloat (last year)," Eatinger said. "I haven't made even half of that yet."

Crab fishers aren't the only ones taking a hit. Princeton Seafood Market, usually bursting with crab and customers, had an empty boiler with a handmade sign taped nearby.

"We don't have any crab here," said Giovanni Hernandez. "Everything is slow. There's not much local fish either."

Meanwhile, regular customers like Joey Fiandor will have to come up with an alternative New Year's tradition.

"It's pretty sad because I love crab, especially after New Year's," the Hayward resident said. "It's been the thing I've done for the past 23 years."

There was no word on when the strike will end. Crab fishers have said they'll remain on strike until they get paid the asking price.

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