CDFW Announces Closure of Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery Off Central California to Protect Humpback Whales

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham announced that he had evaluated the entanglement risk under the Risk Assessment Mitigation Program (RAMP) and declared a fishery closure for the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in fishing zones 3, 4, 5, and 6 (Sonoma/Mendocino county line to the U.S./Mexico border) effective at noon on April 15.


 As a result, the take and possession of Dungeness crab is prohibited at 12 p.m. on April 15 in fishing zones 3-6. 


This season’s closure is being enforced to minimize entanglement risk for humpback whales as they return to feed off the coast of California and in response to several entanglements during March and April of 2022. 


Based on recorded migration patterns, the CDFW expects humpback whales will begin arriving soon and has determined this action is necessary to avoid future entanglements during the same period that occurred last season. In addition, CDFW has authorized the Lost and Abandoned Gear Retrieval Program to remove commercial Dungeness crab traps that have been left in the water beginning April 21 at 6 a.m. in zones 3, 4, 5, and 6.


“The fleet has done an impressive job helping CDFW manage entanglement risk in the commercial fishery and appreciates the high level of involvement to inform the risk assessment process,” said CDFW Director Bonham in a news release from March 30. “We applaud the Working Group for their dedication and continued focus on the long-term viability of the fishery that helps ensure we protect future opportunities to bring Dungeness crab to Californians and provide protection for whales and sea turtles off our coast.”


Additionally, fishing zones 1 – 6 remain under a Fleet Advisory for commercial and recreational Dungeness crab fisheries. As a result, the recreational fishery remains open to crab traps north of Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County. However, it may be subject to a future trap restriction when humpback whales return to feed during the spring and summer. In addition, the CDFW is reminding all commercial and recreational fishery participants to implement best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide. The CDFW also emphasizes that all anglers must act fast and remove fishing gear from remaining open areas should entanglement risk become elevated. For more information on the risk assessment process, visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page. For more information on the Dungeness crab fishery, visit CDFW’s Crab page, including FAQs for the 2022-23 commercial fishing season and FAQs for the new recreational crab trap regulations.


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