Dungeness crab, an iconic Northern California delicacy, has a season that normally starts in the fall and is scheduled to be open through June, but by the end of the first month fishermen estimate that 80 percent of the population has already been harvested.
This early-season rush is called a "derby" and it's driven by large boats that dock further north, which sell their catch to giant seafood processors that ship the crab elsewhere — even to China – much of it frozen and packaged for consumers in other states and nations.
This photo essay originally ran with the feature "Shell Shocked," by Luke Tsai, in the East Bay Express.
The derby also deprives restaurants such as Camino in Oakland from serving fresh crab in April, May, and June.
San Francisco's Pier 45, located next to Fisherman's Wharf, is still an important stop for commercial crab vessels like this one.
Half Moon Bay-based fisherman Marc Alley on the Ronna Lynn. His craft, which he built himself, is almost certainly the tiniest crab boat that docks at Pillar Point. It's a 23-foot-long blue and white skiff — shallow, flat-bottomed, completely open to the air.
Alley says the advantage of his boat's size is increased speed and maneuverability, which allows him to fish in worse weather than larger boats. Here, his deckhand watches for buoys that mark the location of pots.
The cold coastal waters of Northern California pose a challenge during crab season, which brings rough weather to the region. On days when swells are high, fewer fishermen go out to check their crab pots.
A seafood wholesaler unloads the day's catch at Pier 45.
Dungeness crab's popularity is justly deserved, but the industry has relatively few regulations and its fame comes at the price of artificially limited availability.
Here's the way the fishing works: Alley steers the boat out toward the buoys that are attached to his traps, each one a reddish-orange capsule bobbing in the sea. Once we're in position, the deckhand starts up the boat's winch system, tugging on a pull-cord like you'd do with a lawnmower until it comes sputtering to life. Alley lifts the buoy out of the water and hooks it onto the winch, which pulls 300 feet of rope up in a matter of seconds, until the trap appears.
Alley pulls a crab trap aboard. Only a month into the season, catches have dwindled and most of the crabs are undersized, female, or of the wrong species (rock crabs, mostly, which require a different permit). Alley and other small boat fishermen would benefit from a longer crab season.
The traps also have a kind of "self-destruct" function, so that if one of them gets lost, a section of rope disintegrates in the water after a couple of months, allowing any crabs trapped inside to escape.
Wholesale facilities, like this one owned by Monterey Market at Pier 33, have large seawater tanks for crab storage. Each of these can hold 1,000 pounds of crab and there are three onsite.
The celebrated filmmaker and writer, shot for a profile by Sam Lefebvre in the East Bay Express, July 1, 2015.
"When I write about extreme people, rich or poor, I write about things I love. Reality TV is 'slumming it,' because you're looking down on your subject matter," he said. "My best and worst characters, in a way I like all of them." – John Waters
At Waters' lowest, he heard a rat puke. As a yippie, he pissed on the Pentagon. Then, he became one of the foremost transgressors in cinema. Now, he's sixty-nine — "The age of a sex act that I've never been that fond of!"
Sofía Córdova, one half of the electronic intellectual pop duo Xuxa Santamaria. She and her bandmate, Matt Kirkland, completed a musical residency at Zoo Labs in Oakland, an incubator for creative professionals.
From Express profile, "Muse in the Machine?" July 7, 2015.
Communing with the Based God
Berkeley rapper Lil B (Brandon McCartney).
Photographed for "Communing with the Based God," by Nastia Voynovskaya in the East Bay Express, Dec. 9, 2015.
Although Lil B doesn't explicitly brand himself as a religious leader, his social media following is vast and cult-like.
He has given guest lectures akin to religious sermons at UCLA, MIT, and NYU that have included teachings such as, "Pay attention to bugs and insects and how they vibe."
J.J. Jenkins, owner of Merchant’s Saloon, shows how his bar is no longer just a dive. It's more modern now, less grungy, but still a classic. Stripper pole, anyone?
From "Top Twelve Dive Bars in the East Bay," East Bay Express, Feb. 25, 2015.
Welcome to the Shmoplife
Kool John (Jonathan Faulk), a rapper from Richmond, Ca. at the "Shmop Compound," his unofficial HQ.
Shot for "Welcome to the Shmoplife," East Bay Express, Oct. 21, 2015.
P-Lo (Paolo Rodriguez), who grew up in Pinole, is a producer, rapper and collaborator with Kool John.
Gina Gold, an Oakland-based performer and filmmaker, shared stories from her time as a dancer at the Lusty Lady strip club in San Francisco during the TMI (Too Much Information) Storytelling series in May, 2015.
Portrait featured in the East Bay Express event preview, "Ending the War on Sex Work," May 13, 2015.
The True Sharing Economy
Mario, an Uber driver, lives in Pinole but usually starts his workday in Emeryville, where he hopes to pick up a commuter headed across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco.
"There's no security," he explained, "because it's not something you get paid hourly for." (The precarious nature of working for Uber is also why the Express has agreed to requests by Uber drivers that we only use their first names in this report.)
From Express feature "The True Sharing Economy," Nov. 4, 2015.
Lila is a fine art photographer, living and working in the East Bay.