Crab season for Papes Meat Co. claws its way through challenges

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Garrett Paulus

Bryan Gilbert, an employee at Papes Meat Co., serves a customer buying fish in the seafood section. “I’ve worked here a long time, and my personal favorite food besides the crab is the steak,” Gilbert said.

Crab is widely regarded as a delicacy and is eagerly sought after by many each season. But despite the high demand, complications made crabbing unavailable to Half Moon Bay fishermen, who had to work to find other solutions. 

The Half Moon Bay crab season typically runs from November to June, with Pillar Point Harbor being the most popular crabbing location. During this season, thousands of people will buy the popular dish. 

Anamika Dhamija, a sophomore at Carlmont, is one such crab lover. She and her family look forward to the season each year. 

“My family loves crab, so when we do get crab, we boil it or steam it. Crab is definitely on my top five list of favorite foods,” Dhamija said.

However, a high prevalence of whales in Half Moon Bay waters made it impossible for fishermen to catch crab in these areas. Larry Pape, the current manager of Papes Meat Co. in Millbrae and son of Ron Pape, who founded the store in 1958, detailed these struggles. 

Crabs Clawin Categories by Garrett Paulus

“Our local season was shut down because of the troubles with whales,” Pape said. “There’s a lot of whales out in Half Moon Bay so the local fishermen couldn’t go out and fish.”

Because of this, Pape turned to an out-of-state source to get his crabs, relying on people in Oregon to meet the local demand. 

“We were lucky to get our hands on a few suppliers from around the Oregon area. We order a few containers containing around 50 pounds each,” Pape said. They come cooked and then we put them into the fish counter and sell them by the pound. We weigh the crab offer to clean and crack them, and then they’re out of here.”

Pape ran into another challenge along with the unusual route of getting their crab from out of state. After the whales moved to Southern California, the local fishermen decided to catch and sell right in Half Moon Bay.

“After the whales moved down to the Los Angeles area, the local season started back up again, and the crab was getting caught in Half Moon Bay and was getting sold right off the boat in Princeton Harbor, which prevented us from getting our hands on any crab,” Pape said.

Some local customers expressed their preference for the freshly caught crab, which gave Papes Meat Co. some competition when local fishermen started to sell straight from the harbors. 

“I get my crab from the harbor in Half Moon Bay. It’s usually super fresh, and my family enjoys it the most when it’s from the harbor,” said Ed Chan, a customer at Papes.

This year has been the most expensive that Pape has ever seen, with crabs selling at Papes for $16.99 per pound as opposed to last year’s $12.99.

“There is a lot of demand for crab this year because people have been waiting for a long time because last year we didn’t have a real crab season,” Pape said.

Despite some slight bumps in the season, fishermen and local suppliers, including Papes, successfully obtained and sold crab to many local customers. The season has ultimately proved successful thus far. 

“The demand has been good and steady despite the problems we ran into,” Papes said.