CDFW Opens Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery but Continues Partial Recreational Crab Trap Restriction

s of Dec. 31, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has opened the commercial Dungeness crab fishery statewide. Fishing Zones 3-6 (all areas south of the Sonoma/Mendocino County Line) opened under a 50 percent trap reduction on Dec. 31, at 12:01 a.m., with a 64-hour gear setting period to begin on Dec. 28, at 8:01 a.m. This trap reduction will help reduce the risk of entanglement as humpback whales migrate to Baja, their winter breeding grounds. 


Commercial Dungeness crab vessels operating in Fishing Zones 3-6 must understand and comply with the restrictions by reviewing the CDFW Declaration. Any commercial Dungeness Crab vessel fishing in or transiting Fishing Zones 3-6, regardless of fishing location, is subject to the 50 percent reduction and must always have at least half of their valid buoy tags for the current fishing season onboard and available for inspection by CDFW until the trap reduction is lifted.


Fishing Zones 1 and 2 (Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties) had been delayed due to poor meat quality results, but recent tests indicate crabs are ready for market. As a result, the fishery reopened on Dec. 31, at 12:01 a.m., with a 64-hour gear-setting period that began at 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 28.


CDFW is continuing the temporary recreational crab trap restriction in Fishing Zones 3, 4, 5, and 6 due to the presence of humpback whales and the potential for entanglement from trap gear. CDFW wants to remind recreational crabbers that taking of Dungeness crab by other methods, including hoop nets and crab snares, is still allowed during a temporary trap restriction.


Available data indicate whales remain in Fishing Zone 3, particularly in waters around Point Reyes and the Farallon Islands. As a result, CDFW Director Charlton H.Bonham is also issuing a Fleet Advisory for Fishing Zones 3-6 and reminds both the commercial and recreational fishers to avoid setting gear in areas where whales are transiting or foraging and to follow best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide.


CDFW anticipates the subsequent risk assessment will take place on or around Jan. 18. At this time, Bonham will re-evaluate the commercial trap reduction and temporary recreational crab trap restriction in Fishing Zones 3-6.


For more information on the risk assessment process, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page or the Dungeness crab fishery, please visit

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