Crab fisherman affected by a four-alarm fire that caused significant damage to San Francisco’s Pier 45 last month will receive financial assistance, city officials announced this week.

The May 23 blaze destroyed parts of the pier, resulting in more than 30 fishermen losing some 8,000 crab, shrimp and black cod traps and pots in the fire.

Pier 45 has long been regarded as the heart of the city’s crab and fishing industry, housing the largest concentration of commercial fish processors and distributors on the West Coast.

“Many crabbers were already struggling financially due to COVID-19, and the loss of their equipment in the fire at Pier 45 has made an already challenging situation even more difficult,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement.

“The crabbing and fishing industry in our city is part of what makes San Francisco so special and we want to help them recover from the loss of their equipment,” she said.

Fresh Dungeness crab is among the highlights of a visit to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. The city has launched a fundraising campaign and announced interest-free loans to help crabbers affected by the May 23 fire that damaged Pier 45. (Photo by Ram Joshi/Flickr)

The financial assistance will come in the form of interest-free loans to crab fishermen and down payment assistance grants, providing up to $40,000 for individual down payments on replacement traps for the upcoming Dungeness crab season this fall.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, whose supervisorial district includes the surrounding neighborhoods, is leading a $500,000 fundraising campaign to provide the down-payment assistance funds for the crabbers.

“The Fisherman’s Wharf crabbing and fishing community have always been essential to San Francisco’s identity and economy,” he said. “Part of that identity is a city that knows how to take care if its own. We are asking San Franciscans who refuse to let this crisis erase all our beloved iconic institutions to dig deep and support our Pier 45 Crab Relief efforts.”

The loan payment program is being developed jointly by the Port of San Francisco, the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Crab Boat Owners Association.

The Port is also working to identify new storage spaces for crab fishermen and is considering a rent relief package for the Pier’s tenants.

Once final, the Port and OEWD will present the complete relief program to the Port Commission on July 14.

In order to access the program, crab fishermen will need to document their losses and complete an application. Recipients can start receiving grant payments as early as two weeks after the commission approves the program.

“The fishing community is an integral part of the port community,” Port Executive Director Elaine Forbes said. “We want to assist this vital maritime industry in its recovery, and to ensure that the process of getting ready for November’s crabbing season is as painless as possible given these very challenging and uncertain times.

“We stand with our fishing community in recognition of the vital role this essential workforce plays in the Fisherman’s Wharf experience and in our economy,” Forbes said.

San Francisco’s historic crabbing industry, a Bay Area mainstay since the Gold Rush era, brings in two million pounds of Dungeness crab annually.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.