Crabbing Around Westport

Dungeness crab caught fresh that morning being offloaded from the boat in Westport, WA.

By Duke Moscrip

From the Ocean, With Love

If you’ve ever been to Westport, Washington, then you’ve seen the giant crab pots stacked sky-high and the trawlers parked at the marina. Last week, our team of chefs and I arrived to tour the processing plant for Pacific Seafood, our only crab supplier.

Westport in April is damp and chilly, with ocean temperatures in the low forties, but our group eagerly gathered at the dock when a crab boat arrived to unload its bounty of live Dungeness crab freshly caught that morning. Watching the unloading of thousands of crabs blew me away! Filling the floor of the crab boat, fisherman loaded each one into a metal box. A small crane then lifted them overhead, gently pouring them into huge orange plastic bins for forklift transport. Fast, efficient, and carefully done, within a couple of hours, the unloaded crabs were off to the processing plant.

Cracking the Crab: Nothing is Wasted. Not Even the Eyeballs.

Once off to the plant, some crabs go to the whole crab or “cracked crab” market. Cooked, sectioned, and chilled for two hours in water so cold that I could only submerge my hand for a second or two before the stinging burn of frostbite set in.

How many crabs can a crab cracker crack?

For packaged crabmeat, crackers work tirelessly and swiftly to pull luscious pieces of crab from their shells. This efficient operation runs 20 hours a day in peak season, and let me tell you, nothing . . . and I mean nothing is wasted. Parts not edible become fertilizer. Fish oil is used to make a special treatment for burn victims. Pacific Seafood truly understands the value of these amazing creatures and has developed the means to use every part, creating a respectful and sustainable operation.

For nine months out of the year, crab is available fresh. The frozen ones are expertly stored at 40 degrees below zero, which keeps them tasting delicious and fresh. Why not catch them all year? Well, we have to let them breed (cue romantic music, maybe a dazzling sunset), and those few months off are critical for a healthy population.

The good news is that you don’t need to don a hairnet to try these tasty crustaceans. Come on down to any Duke’s for a sample of our favorites, like our Dungeness Crab “Un” Cakes, named so because we took out the “cake” and focused on the crab, or our Dungeness Crab and Prawn Gnocchi, which melts in your mouth. See you at Duke’s!

Keep a lookout for these notorious pirates, they have been known to pillage your crab right off your plate!

April 11, 2018
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