Potential Whale Entanglement Forces CDFW to Restrict and Delay Commercial Dungeness Crab Fisheries

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced that the recreational take of Dungeness crab using crab traps will be temporarily restricted between the Sonoma/Mendocino County line and Lopez Point in Monterey County (Fishing Zones 3 and 4) after the season opens due to the presence of humpback whales and potential for entanglement from trap gear.

The recreational take of Dungeness crab by other methods, including hoop nets and crab snares, was not affected by the temporary trap restriction, and is allowed statewide as of the season’s Nov. 4 opening date. The use of recreational crab traps in Fishing Zones 1, 2, 5 and 6 is also allowed.

In addition, a Fleet Advisory has been issued for all Fishing Zones (1-6) for the recreational fishery. Such an advisory refers to guidance, advice or recommendations provided to a fleet of vessels. This guidance often comes from experts in the maritime industry and can cover various aspects related to the management, operation, and optimization of fleets. The commercial Dungeness crab fishery south of the Sonoma/Mendocino County line was scheduled to open on Nov. 15 in Fishing Zones 3, 4, 5, and 6. However, the season opener also has been delayed in those zones due to the presence of high numbers of humpback whales.

“Large aggregations of humpback whales continue to forage between Bodega Bay and Monterey, and allowing the use of crab traps would increase the risk of an entanglement in those fishing zones,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham in a news release. “We will continue to work with both the recreational and commercial Dungeness crab fisheries to protect whales while working to maximize fishing [opportunities]. We appreciate the ongoing commitment by both the recreational and commercial fleets and the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group to manage entanglement risk in this iconic fishery.”

The CDFW is reminding anglers that the deployment and use of crab traps in any recreational crab fishery (including rock crab) is temporarily restricted in Fishing Zones 3 and 4 until lifted by the agency’s director. Recreational crabbers should also implement best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide. In addition, if adopted, proposed regulations for recreational groundfish will allow the deployment of Dungeness crab traps shoreward of the 50-fathom Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) boundary line (50 CFR Part 660, Subpart G) when groundfish are onboard. Until the emergency regulations are in place, no fishing gear of any type may be deployed shoreward of the 50-fathom RCA line when shelf rockfish, slope rockfish or lingcod are onboard.

The CDFW anticipates the subsequent risk assessment will occur on or before Nov. 17, at which time the director will re-evaluate risk for the Dungeness crab fisheries. That risk assessment is expected to inform the potential for a statewide commercial fishery opener on Dec. 1 and the possibility of modifying the recreational trap restriction.

For more information on the risk assessment process, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page at https://shorturl.at/stK34, or for more information on the Dungeness crab fishery, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab.


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