CALIFORNIA— Wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Marine Enforcement Division have noticed a change in the number of commercial Dungeness crab cases in north coast waters since December 2021.
Since Dec. 9, 2021, there have been five cases from Crescent City and two in Eureka regarding possession of undersized crabs by commercial crab fishermen. The most common violation has been the commercial harvest of undersized crabs during this period. Commercial Dungeness crab fishermen are expected to measure their entire catch and keep only crabs equal to or greater than six and one-quarter inches, which is slightly more than the required five and three-fourths width required of recreational crabbers. In addition, there is a provision in the law to authorize possession of no more than one percent of the catch to be undersized.
In all seven cases, citations were written, the loads were seized, and the proceeds from the sales of the crab were directed to the Wildlife Preservation Fund until the cases are adjudicated in court. In the seven cases, 575 undersized crabs were collectively discovered during inspections. The seized illegal loads ranged from 8 to 24 percent undersized, making them gross violations of the one percent undersized Dungeness crab allowance. During the investigations, wildlife officers discovered evidence that some boat crews had attempted to avoid wildlife officers at the dock and had possibly dumped a load of short crabs. In addition, one of the cited violators had been recently warned by wildlife officers for possession of crabs whose length came up short. Commercial and recreational crabbers must carry a measuring device to ensure all Dungeness crab meet the minimum size limit of six and one-quarter inches for commercial harvest and five and three-quarter inches for recreational harvest. The crab should be measured by the shortest distance through the body from the edge of the shell to the edge of the shell directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines).
While there has been an observed uptick in the number of commercial crab violations, CDFW commends much of the commercial Dungeness crab fleet for complying with the rules governing the fishery and their significant efforts to reduce the risk of whale and sea turtle entanglements.