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2022-2024 News Releases

CDFW Restricts Recreational Crab Traps and Delays the Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery to Protect Whales from Entanglement
  • October 27, 2023
Dungeness crabs aboard a fishing boat after being collected from the sea floor.

The recreational take of Dungeness crab using crab traps will be temporarily restricted between the Sonoma/Mendocino county line and Lopez Point, Monterey County (Fishing Zones 3 and 4) when the season opens on Saturday, Nov. 4 due to presence of humpback whales and potential for entanglement from trap gear. Recreational take of Dungeness crab by other methods, including hoop nets and crab snares, is not affected by the temporary trap restriction and is allowed statewide beginning Nov. 4, 2023. 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. The commercial Dungeness crab fishery south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line was scheduled to open on Nov. 15, 2023, in Fishing Zones 3, 4, 5 and 6. However, the season opener has been delayed (PDF) in those zones due to presence of high numbers of humpback whales (PDF).

“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 California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham. “We will continue to work with both the recreational and commercial Dungeness crab fisheries to protect whales while working to maximize fishing opportunity. 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."

Map of California's marine fishing zones.

CDFW reminds 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 CDFW Director. Recreational crabbers should also implement best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide (PDF). 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.

CDFW anticipates the next risk assessment will take place on or before Nov. 17, 2023, 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 potential to modify the recreational trap restriction.

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


Media Contacts:
Ryan Bartling, CDFW Marine Region, (415) 238-2638
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 212-7352

Categories: Dungeness Crab, Environment, Marine

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