San Franciscans who look forward to holiday crab feasts each year are going to be disappointed this winter. The container ship accident that spilled nearly 60,000 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay has also put the Dungeness crab season, originally set to begin this week, on hold until further notice. A series of articles in the San Francisco Chronicle follows the unfolding story.

This is not just a tragedy at the dinner table. The impact on crab and other aquatic life in the bay will likely be felt far into the future. “Right now, the bay is loaded with baby Dungeness,” said Larry Collins, president of San Francisco’s Crab Boat Owners Association. “As that fuel moves down the water column, it could devastate crab numbers for years to come.”

Not only does the spill harm the crab and crab-lovers, the commercial fishermen take a hit as well. “We just had a horrible salmon season and a lot of the commercial guys are depending on the crab season to survive in this business,” said Collins. “We seem to be going from one catastrophe to the next.”

There is crab available for sale in the Bay Area, but it’s trucked in from the Pacific Northwest. According to seafood processor Angel Cincotta, “If there’s even the slightest taint of fuel either on the crab or in the holding tanks, we won’t touch it because we won’t be able to sell it. The customer will not buy it and we wouldn’t expect them to.”

Of course, none of this helps those who make their living in the fishing industry.

‘Words can’t begin to describe what I’m feeling right now,’ California Dawn owner and operator James Smith said of a potential loss of the sport crabbing season. ‘I have a 4-month-old daughter, a boat payment and a dock payment that don’t know there’s an oil spill. The planned income that’s supposed to be there might be gone.’

Those who are merely mourning their favorite holiday meal might consider themselves lucky.

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