The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has extended partial recreational crab trap restrictions and delayed the commercial Dungeness crab season due to poor meat quality and risks to whales. These actions impact seafood lovers and considerably affect the local fishing industry and economy.
The actions by CDFW are in response to humpback whales' presence and their potential entanglement with crab trap gear in Fishing Zones 1, 3, and 4. This temporary expansion impacts fishermen from the California/Oregon border to Cape Mendocino in Zone 1 and from the Sonoma/Mendocino county line to Lopez Point in Zones 3 and 4. These changes will begin on Nov. 26 at 6 p.m. and continue until the next risk assessment, per the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The capture of Dungeness crabs by methods like hoop nets and crab snares is still permitted during the temporary trap restriction. Furthermore, recreational use of crab traps is still allowed in Fishing Zones 2 and 5. The CDFW continues to encourage recreational crabbers to follow best practices described in their guide, alongside continuing a Fleet Advisory for all Fishing Zones (1-6).
Additionally, the commercial Dungeness crab season in northern California, scheduled to open on Dec. 1, has now been pushed back to at least 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 16. This postponement responded to poor crab meat quality test results in several counties in Fishing Zones 1 and 2. High numbers of humpback whales and potential entanglement risks delay the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in Fishing Zones 3-6.
The forthcoming risk assessment is slated for around Dec. 7. CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham will re-evaluate the temporary recreational crab trap restrictions and commercial fishery delay. This evaluation is to inform the possible commercial fishery opener and modification of the recreational trap restriction. For more about the risk assessment process, visit CDFW's Whale Safe Fisheries page.
For more on the Dungeness crab fishery, visit wildlife.ca.gov/crab.