In the past, fishing families have gone on strike, basically stopping the commercial fishery, to try to prevent the large northern boats from dominating the central California catch. The industrial boats snap up nearly all the crab at the beginning of the season, selling them at rock bottom prices to processors who freeze them.That's from an article in last week's SF Chronicle. Read the whole thing for helpful advice on how to shop from local fishermen.
The cooked crab and picked crabmeat available in retail markets often comes from these crabs that are processed at the beginning of the season. Small crabbing families cannot compete in this scenario.
Consumers also suffer. Such a crab season offers a bumper crop of cheap crab at the beginning, and small and poor-quality crab the rest of the season. A solution, such as limiting the number of pots lowered per boat, has yet to be hashed out by wholesalers, fishing families and regulatory agencies.
Would IFQ's (Individual Fishing Quotas) help solve the problem? In general, I think regulators should focus on the environmental harms and let technologies, such as boat size, be worked out freely between suppliers and consumers. I like small fishing families and fishing towns, and I'll spend my money to support them. But protectionism just ain't right.