The city lost two-thirds of its seafood processing capacity over the weekend.

By Mike Pomranz
May 27, 2020
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As if the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t already making life tough, regardless of where you live, the San Francisco fishing community was dealt a huge blow over the weekend when a four-alarm fire tore through Pier 45 at the city’s legendary Fisherman’s Wharf around 4 a.m. on Saturday, causing millions of dollars in estimated damage and effectively wiping out two-thirds of the city’s seafood suppliers while putting the upcoming Dungeness crab season in jeopardy.

Parts of the pier were still smoldering yesterday, three days after the fire destroyed a processing and storage warehouse—the latter of which housed 30 tenants, many of which sublet space to other fishermen, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “This is the biggest disaster the San Francisco fishing fleet has ever seen,” local fisher Sarah Bates told the paper.

Larry Collins, president of San Francisco's Community Fishing Association, told ABC7 News that the losses were likely in the $4 to $5 million range—and while the cause of the fire is still being investigated, the station reported that many fishermen are unable to get fire insurance, meaning they may have no way to recoup the losses. “It's bad, 30 families lost everything,” Collins added.

The Port of San Francisco or other city groups will hopefully be able to help with assistance—financial or otherwise—but as of yesterday, no plan was yet in place. “We understand this is a tragic loss, we're going to put our heads together for solutions,” Port spokesperson Randy Quezada was quoted as saying.

So in the interim, the Crab Boat Owners Association has launched a GoFundMe campaign called the “San Francisco fishing fleet fire recovery” seeking to raise $1 million “to reequip fishing businesses with the gear necessary to continue working and bringing fresh seafood to San Francisco,” according to the campaign. “As a community, we have lost approximately 2/3 of the capacity to harvest the fresh seafood that is delivered to San Francisco and the essence of our livelihoods.” As of this writing, over $56,000 had been raised from over 500 people.

The impact is terrible across the board, but things look especially troubling for the upcoming Dungeness crab season this fall. Beyond the cost of replacement, the crab pots needed for fishing are labor-intensive to assemble, according to Collins, meaning getting back to full fishing capacity will be virtually impossible. And this latest setback is on top of repeated problems Dungeness crab fishermen have faced: Over the past decade, seasons have repeatedly been disrupted due to problems like algae blooms and worries over whale entanglements—both of which are believed to be increasing due to climate change. And earlier this year, a study revealed that increasing acidity in the Pacific Ocean may be hindering the development of young crabs, as well.