Although the crab season's opening had been delayed 10 days, several professional North Coast commercial fisherman and buyers predict the Dungeness crab market stands to gain in the long run.
Although consumers are waiting none too patiently for the first harvest and local fishermen were guaranteed a relatively high $1.75/lb. price, the season was delayed by both the majority of processors and fishermen's marketing association in an unprecedented agreement to hold off for better quality crabs.
Peter Hall, new president and general manager of Eureka Fisheries, said in a recent interview that this could be a watershed year for the Dungeness crab industry.
"I'm not sure there has ever been an occurrence of agreement as to quality and price. Cooperation this year between the fishermen and processors up and down the coast is a historical first," he said.
"Both sides agree the market should get the best possible quality product this year. Hopefully, this will provide dividends down the road for the industry locally."
Tests were conducted on the Dungeness crab in Washington, Oregon and California in November. The crabs were found to be just shy of the weight requirements, and at first the states decided to open the season on schedule. The buyers and sellers up and down the North Coast, however, seemed anxious to protect the Dungeness market which promises to grow substantially in the next few years.
David Helliwell, Humboldt Fisherman's Marketing Association director, said, "It's a unique situation because the Snow crab and King crab out of Alaska are curtailed this year and will be even more curtailed next year. Those buyers who have never bought Dungeness before will be interested in buying. It's a whole new ball game for the industry."
Helliwell also said that the delay in the market may be because the majority of fisherman agreed with processors that it was a golden opportunity to increase the profits on local crab in the future, but only if the quality (weight-to-shell ratio) was there.
The past two years have seen relatively good quality, but both the weight and volume of the crab appear to be lower this year.
"The crabs haven't filled up with meat yet, " Helliwell said. Some have and some haven't. You send one to the store with no meat in it, the first one who opens it up is going to be disappointed."
Zach Rotwein, a 20-year veteran of the fleet and owner of Captain Zach's Crab House Market and Restaurant in McKinleyville, understands the future market concerns. However, he is not dealing with local processors such as Pacific Choice or Eureka Fisheries, and instead sends his catch to local and international live markets through Carvalho Fisheries who guaranteed the same $1.75/lb. price to their sellers on Dec. 1.
"It's common knowledge that these crabs are worth money this year," he said, "In fact we should be getting $2.50/lb."
Even though it caused a 10-day delay to both his fishing and retail/restaurant business, Rotwein stuck with the majority and held off until late Friday when the remainder of the fleets south of Brookings headed out in fair weather to set traps.
"A (local) fisherman cannot be honorable and go fishing if another fisherman cannot go fishing," Rotwein said.
Mike Cunningham, vice president of the Humboldt Fishermen's Marketing Association, played a key role in the negotiations between the North Coast fleets and the processors.
"Quality was the key word," he said.
There has also been talk among local fisherman that some additional marketing manipulation was being precipitated by the area's largest processor, Pacific Choice Seafoods, who started buying Northern Oregon and Washington crab as early as last week.
Although Cunningham agreed that Pacific Choice may have tried to kick the market off with a lower price by buying early crab out of the Coos Bay area, he said they did wind up holding with the southern fleets in going along with the delay.
"However, Eureka Fisheries really stepped up to the issue early on by offering a solid $1.75/lb price if the fishing were held up until the 15th" of the month.
Harvesting began in earnest on Sunday, with crabs set to hit local processors and markets this week.
reported by Humboldt Jones
John S. Woolley, a member of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, has been named to the California Coastal Commission, North Coastal Region, it was announced today by Gov. Grey Davis in Sacramento.
Woolley, 55, of Arcata, has been the Third District supervisor since 1997. He will continue to serve in that capacity. Commission members serve without pay.
From 1983 to 1994 Wooley was an economic development planner for the Northern California Indian Development Council. From 1982-86 he was a consultant for Humboldt State University's Center for Community Development.
He has a teaching credential from HSU. Senate confirmation is not required for the commission post.
The city of Eureka will cut the ribbon on its new $9.5 million marina today at 10:30 a.m.
The marina project has been underway since 1993 when the Harbor Commission came up with a plan. The city adopted the plan and after demolishing the old marina, ground was broken on the project last October.
David McGinity, director of Community Services for the city, said the marina was the newest in California and is state-of-the-art.
"It is a beautiful facility," he said.
Three buildings along with boat ramps, and floating docks are all part of the marina. The Wharfinger building, one of the three buildings, houses the management of the marina and has a room available for rental. The Great Room is for special events and is booked up to a year in advance.
"This room can seat anywhere from 120 to 140 people and can be used for weddings or private parties," McGinity said.
The building was named Wharfinger, according to McGinity, because it means "one who manages the marina."
"When the plans were drawn up for this project, that was the name that was given," he said. "We wanted to be consistent with the terminology, and call things by what they are."
The name, however, is temporary and may be changed to 1 Marina Way, which just happens to be the address for the marina.
Another of the new facilities is a building that is available to boaters and those who fish who lease space at the marina. The tenant building offers laundromat and shower services. A public restroom was also built and is at the east end of the marina by the two-lane boat ramp.
Funding was provided by grants, loans and donations. The California Boating and Water Ways, the Integrated Waste Management and the Eureka Redevelopment Agency all contributed.
"Renting out the Great Room to the public allows us to pay off the money that was loaned for the project," McGinity said.
The opening ceremonies will include a ribbon cutting, refreshments and a dedication of the building.
reported by Amanda Lang
Where is the best place in the United States to live?
According to a report by a U.S. Agriculture Department statistician, it's right here in Humboldt County. David McGranahan, who works for the USDA's Economic Research Service, created a ranking system by compiling statistics reflecting so-called "natural amenities."
His premise was based on a simple observation: People like to live amidst beautiful scenery. Since many workers in the shifting American economy are no longer bound to metropolitan areas, McGranahan assumes people will be moving to the most attractive rural areas, according to a report in the November American Demographics, a magazine for statisticians and others interested in statistics.
McGranahan's analysis of data from 2,260 non-metro counties nationwide took into account three factors.
First was topography, with highest rating going to the "hilliest" areas.
Next was water resources, i.e.. rivers, streams and lakes.
And last was climate, with high marks going to areas with moderate average temperatures in January and July.
When his computer was through crunching numbers, Humboldt County came out at the top of the list. Mendocino and Del Norte counties ranked second and third. The report, titled "Natural Amenities Drive Rural Population Change," showed that from 1970 to 1996, high-scoring counties tended to double their population.
While overall his data seemed to match the theory, there are exceptions and Humboldt County is one of them. Most of the top 10 counties saw a double-digit growth rate from 1990-98, (Summit County in Colorado was highest with a 43.5 percent population increase.) Humboldt only grew by only 2.2 percent.
The counties at the bottom of McGranahan's list were cold, flat places like the Red Lake region in Minnesota and a couple of counties in North Dakota. And as McGranahan's predicted, all of them lost population in the last decade.
The report focused on natural amenities and left out economics, undoubtedly a significant factor is population dynamics. Many who are more concerned about finding a high-paying job are willing to follow the money. Those of us who have chosen to live in Humboldt County sometimes must be satisfied with lower wages, but at least we get to look at nice scenery on the way to work.
With innovations like telecommuting offering
more choices for those who don't have to work in an office, McGranahan assumes
that a nice view will
become even more important in determining where people move.
"Amenities are the rural competitive advantage," he concludes. "That's because Americans are changing the way they make decisions about where they choose to live. Wages will always be a major consideration, but many working-age people now feel entitled to a higher quality of life before they get the gold watch. And anyplace that can offer them their place in the clouds is likely to thrive. People want to get a life."
reported by Bob Doran
The U.S. Census 2000 does not begin its count until next year, but the advance guard is already hard at work.
"Currently we've been doing address updating of all our lists," said Shawn Adkins, Eureka local census office manager. His office oversees the Northern California region that includes Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Trinity and Lake counties.
"We've done what we call address listing in the rural areas and then block canvassing in the more urban areas. That's to help us understand what the work load will be with the nonresponse follow-up that takes place after the mail-out."
A little clarification of terms: The "mail-out" is the distribution of census forms to every home in the country set for mid-March. "Nonresponse follow-up" is checking up on those who don't return their questionnaires after "Census Day," April 1.
Title 13 of the U.S. Government Code covers the census. The law requires that everyone take part and forbids any other agency from accessing the information gathered.
In order to determine who has not complied with the law by returning their forms, agents are combing the back roads searching for unlisted dwellings. Some of the outlying areas of the county are termed "list enumerate."
"That means we haven't done any address listing in those areas so we'll be going out cold looking for addresses along each road. We'll canvass every road and make an attempt to contact the residents."
Adkins said he is aware that in some areas going door to door can be a dangerous thing to do. "We're doing our best to preserve the safety of our enumerators," he said.
At this point the government is trying to make sure that everyone knows the census is coming and putting emphasis on how important the count can be. The government uses the statistics gathered for determining how much money is allotted to a given region for a variety of programs and the numbers are used to set the boundaries for congressional districts.
A particular concern is reaching the portion of the population that does not get counted.
"In the past a large portion of the nonresponse has consistently come from minority populations. Back in 1990 we came up with an undercount number of about 12 percent for American Indians, with African Americans it was 8 percent, with Hispanics it was 4 percent and Asian and Pacific Islanders was also around 4 percent. That is in comparison to 1.7 percent with white Americans."
Why don't these groups get counted?
"We think it's a lack of understanding. Sometimes it's folks who don't hear about it, perhaps because they don't watch the TV news and catch the gist of it that way.
"That's one part of it; another is that within the Asian and Hispanic communities, for example folks who are very recent immigrants are often used to the census in their countries as a count of how many men are going to be available to become soldiers or of how many babies are being born, keeping track of that to control populations. So folks are reluctant. They don't want the government coming in and taking their children out of their house or anything along those lines."
Of course, distrust of the government is not limited to minority populations, but Adkins says there is no reason to worry about data collected for the census being used against anyone.
"We emphasize the fact that no one from the IRS or any law enforcement is going to come knocking on your door because of information from the census," he said. "The information is never shared with any of those agencies. Title 13 protects that, even to the point that if someone should get the information, it would not be admissible in court."
reported by Bob Doran
An increase in state funds for state parks has been recommended by a state Assembly subcommittee chaired by Assemblymember Virginia Strom-Martin, D-Duncans Mills.
The goal would be "to allow for at least a partial elimination of day-use fees, provide more certainty to the budgeting process and to provide additional funds for park operations," the budget subcommittee report said.
The report also asks that the Legislature allocate funds for a study of demographics and patterns of park use to "determine the impact of user fees on park usage." It also asks for an evaluation of current fees to "determine what fees might be lowered or eliminated."
These recommendations were made after the subcommittee found the "system has deteriorated badly" because of a "combination of budget cuts and a failure of previous administrations to make state parks a high priority."