California’s Crab Season ended six weeks earlier than planned after studies showed the return of Humpback whales to Northern California waters.
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA一 June 1 marked the end of the commercial crab season in Northern California after the California Department of Fish and Wildlife called for an end to the season six weeks before the original July 15 end date.
A recent survey showed data that indicated that there is an increase in the number of Humpback whales returning to their California fishing grounds from their winter breeding grounds.
Working with the knowledge of this increase in risk for the marine life population and operating under the Risk Assessment Mitigation Program, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham called for a closure of the season and the removal of commercial crab traps by June 1 at 12 p.m.
“It has been a very difficult year for many in our fishing communities and I recognize that every day of lost fishing further impacts families and small businesses,” said Bonham in a press release from May 18. “I acknowledge the sacrifices and resilience of California’s fishermen and women and look forward to continuing to work with the fleet and the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group to minimize entanglement risk while maximizing opportunities.”
This risk assessment is the tenth since late October and is part of RAMP, a program piloted in 2020 by the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, a partnership between CDFW, the California Protection Council, and National Marine Fisheries Service established in 2015, that assesses the risk of marine life entanglements by Dungeness crab fishing gear, according to the Ocean Protection Council website.
According to the CDFW website, RAMP has lowered confirmed entanglements of Humpback whales, Blue whales, and Leatherback sea turtles from a high of 22 confirmed entanglements in 2016 to zero for the 2020-21 season.
Under the plan, the CDFW runs monthly assessments of marine life entanglement risk for whales and sea turtles using aerial and vessel surveys, and if the risk is elevated the department will consult with the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, and decide on a path.
Actions can include, fleet advisories; fishing depth constraints; vertical line reductions; fishery closures; and use of approved alternative gear, according to the CDFW website.
Bonham authorized the Lost and Abandoned Gear Program to begin the removal of traps on June 7 beginning at 6 a.m.
For more information about the risk assessment process visit the CDFW Whale Safe Fisheries page at https://bit.ly/2TrCu4B, and for more information about the Dungeness crab fishery visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/crab.