Wyden, Merkley Secure Major Win for Oregon Crab Fisheries

Washington, D.C. – A bill introduced by Oregon’s Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to strengthen Oregon’s crab fishery passed the United States Senate and will now head to the president’s desk for signature into law. The bill permanently extends a decades-long fishery management agreement that has been vital to the Pacific Northwest’s Dungeness crab fishery.

Without this legislation, crab fisheries in Oregon faced an uncertain future without an approved fishery management plan.

“The signature Dungeness crab fishery off our coast creates Oregon jobs and drives business and tourism in coastal communities,” Wyden said. “This thriving fishery is Oregon-run and operated, and the Senate’s passage of this bill will land it on firmer ground for the benefit of Oregonians from Astoria to Brookings.”

“Oregon’s Dungeness crab fishery is a tremendous asset to our state, supporting good-paying jobs up and down our coast,” Merkley said. “Fair-play rules and sustainable practices have helped make sure that this fishery stays strong for the commercial fishermen who rely on it, and this extension will help keep Oregon’s Dungeness crab fishery thriving and prosperous for years to come.”

The states of Oregon, Washington, and California cooperatively manage the West Coast crab fishery in federal waters under a tri-state agreement that Congress first authorized in 1998. The act would make that authority permanent. The agreement expired without a replacement in 2016. This bill will help reintroduce much-needed stability to the industry, and preserve a sustainable, science-based fishery management program that keeps fishermen fishing and crab stocks thriving.

Last year, Oregon crabbers harvested more than 15.7 million pounds of Dungeness crab worth more than $55.7 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Crab populations vary greatly by year, depending on food availability and ocean conditions. The Dungeness crab catch tends to peak every 10 years and can fluctuate by tens of millions of pounds between years. In order to manage the fishery appropriately, managers must coordinate between states to ensure management and conservation goals are achieved. 

U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also sponsored the bill. Reps. Jamie Herrera-Beutler, R-Wash., and Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., cosponsored companion legislation in the House.