State orders end of April 8 Bay Area season, Central Coast
The commercial Dungeness crab season started late for the Bay and Central Coast regions. And it ends early.
Friday afternoon, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife decided that the season must end on April 8 to protect the humpback whales. Two whales recently became entangled in crabbing gear, one off the coast of San Mateo County and the other in Monterey Bay.
Until then, the state is asking all fishermen and sailors to keep an eye out for entangled whales and report them to the U.S. Coast Guard so an ‘Entanglement Response Team’ can be dispatched to remove them. the gear.
“The past few seasons have been challenging for fishing families, communities and businesses, but it’s imperative that we strike the right balance between protecting humpback whales and providing fishing opportunities,” said Charlton H. Bonham, director of CDFW, in a statement. decision.
The ruling applies to the coastal region from the Sonoma-Mendocino County border south to the Mexican border (what the state considers Zones 3, 4, 5, and 6.) It does not affect commercial crabbers in the far north of the state. Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties (zones 1, 2). It also does not affect recreational crab fishing.
“The fleet has done an impressive job of helping CDFW manage the risk of entanglement in commercial fishing, including beginning to remove fishing gear when entanglements were first reported,” Bonham said. “This partnership helps ensure that we protect future fishing opportunities and the incredible biodiversity of our ocean.”
The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity applauded the action and recommended that even stronger action be taken in the future.
“We’re glad to see this closure protect whales from crabs off the California coast, but recent entanglements show that California needs to do more to protect these animals,” said Catherine Kilduff, an attorney with the center’s oceans program, after hearing Friday’s report. decision. “Humpback whales migrate hundreds of miles to Monterey Bay, and state officials should protect every one of them while they feed there. It’s time to get serious about gear without a rope that protects whales off the coast of California.
The Bay Area’s Dungeness commercial season traditionally begins November 15, and Fish and Game code 8276 allows the season to remain open until June 30 south of the Sonoma/Mendocino line. However, according to state officials, the majority of crabs caught in any given season occur between the opening date and March. Most Dungeness crab fishing in this area ends in late April.
This same status allows fishing in the Far North to remain open until July 15. But this can also be subject to closure by the manager if the risk of entanglement there becomes high.
Since 2015, there have been delays in all Dungeness trading seasons except one in the Bay Area. A toxin, domoic acid, that could sicken anyone who eats the contaminated crab destroyed Northern California’s 2015-2016 commercial season and created delays in other years.
In 2018, recreational crabbers had to postpone their fishing, but the commercial season got off to a good start. In 2019 and 2020 and 2021, the danger of fishing lines to whales caused crabs to be delayed by several weeks. The 2020 crab fishing season was supposed to officially start Dec. 23, but price negotiations between crab fleets and seafood processors have delayed the start until early 2021.