CALIFORNIA— On March 25, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced the closure of 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 8.
Director Charlton H. Bonham assessed the entanglement risk under the Risk Assessment Mitigation Program after reports that two humpback whales were caught in crab fishing gear in San Mateo County and Monterey Bay.
All commercial Dungeness crab traps were required to be removed from the fishing grounds by the April 8 closure date. While this closure shortens the season for many anglers, the RAMP regulations are in place to minimize risk and provide a viable long-term fishery for all Californians.
In addition, the Director has authorized the Lost and Abandoned Gear Retrieval Program to begin removing commercial Dungeness crab traps that have been left in the water starting April 15, at noon in Zones 3, 4, 5, and 6.
CDFW is asking anglers and mariners to lookout for entangled whales and report them so that a disentanglement response team can be mobilized to remove the gear. Reports can be made to 1-877-SOS-WHALE or contact the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16. The recreational fishery in these zones remains open but may be subject to a future trap restriction when humpbacks return to forage during the spring and summer.
In addition, CDFW is continuing a Fleet Advisory and reminds all in the commercial and recreational fisheries to implement best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide (PDF)(opens in new tab).
“The past few seasons have been difficult for fishing families, communities, and businesses, but it is imperative that we strike the right balance between protecting humpback whales and providing fishing opportunities,” said Bonham in a March 25 press release. “The fleet has done an impressive job helping CDFW manage the risk of entanglement in the commercial fishery, including starting to remove fishing gear when the entanglements were first reported. This partnership helps ensure we protect future opportunities to fish and the incredible biodiversity of our ocean.”
A map of all Fishing Zones can be found on the CDFW website. For more information related to the risk assessment process, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries webpage. For more information on the Dungeness crab fishery, please visit CDFW’s Crab webpage, including FAQs for the 2021-22 commercial fishing season and FAQs for the new recreational crab trap regulations.