Seafood lovers dreaming of fresh, local Dungeness crab for the holidays from California waters are in for a disappointment, as state officials have announced another delay in the commercial crabbing season. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) cited the need to protect endangered humpback whales and Pacific leatherback sea turtles that risk entanglement in crabbing equipment as the reason for the postponement, which won't see crabbing resume until at least after Christmas.
SF Eater reports that this third delay marks a continuing effort by CDFW to manage fisheries with an eye toward environmental stewardship. According to the department, at least one sea turtle became entangled in lost commercial Dungeness crab fishing gear from a previous season. Meanwhile, some relief comes with parts of the coast opening up to recreational crab trapping starting December 16, and crabbing by other methods like hoop nets and snares remains permissible.
While the commercial sector faces setbacks, the CDFW announcement also indicated ongoing restrictions for recreational crab trapping from the Sonoma/Mendocino county line to Lopez Point. Despite that, areas like Fishing Zone 1 will reopen for traps later this month. The CDFW calls for continued vigilance and promotes best practices for all fishing zones in a bid to protect marine wildlife.
With commercial fishing on pause, local markets in San Francisco like Alioto-Lazio Fish Company, Billingsgate, and Sun Fat Seafood Co. are pivoting to provide Dungeness crab from other sources. They are meeting demand from diners eager to maintain the festive tradition of serving this shellfish during the holiday season. CDFW's next risk assessment for re-evaluating the fishery's status is scheduled for December 21, aiming to juggle the interests of marine conservation with the important commercial and recreational fishing industries.