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CDFW Restricts Recreational Crab Traps and Delays the Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery to Protect Whales from Entanglement
  • October 28, 2022
A close-up photo of a Dungeness crab.

The recreational take of Dungeness crab using crab traps will be temporarily restricted statewide when the season opens on Saturday, Nov. 5 due to presence of humpback and blue whales and the 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. 5, 2022. However, the deployment and use of crab traps in any recreational crab fishery (including rock crab) is temporarily restricted in all fishing zones until lifted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director. CDFW also reminds recreational crabbers to implement best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide (PDF).

The commercial Dungeness crab fishery south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line was scheduled to open on Nov. 15, 2022 in Fishing Zones 3, 4, 5 and 6. However, the season opener has been delayed in those zones due to presence of high numbers of humpback whales (PDF) and the potential for entanglement.

“Based on recent surveys, large aggregations of humpbacks whales continue to forage in California coastal waters and allowing the use of crab traps would increase the risk of an entanglement,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “We will continue to work with both the recreational and commercial Dungeness crab fisheries to protect whales and sea turtles while striving to maximize fishing opportunity. We appreciate the ongoing commitment by the fleet and the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group to protect these incredible animals. These partnerships will continue to shape the future of both fisheries and we look forward to continuing the important work of providing fishing opportunity in the coming weeks."

Prior to this determination, CDFW worked with a broad range of scientific partners, researchers, agencies and the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group to collect and synthesize information regarding presence of humpback whales, blue whales and leatherback sea turtles across each fishing zone. Aerial and vessel-based surveys indicate aggregations of humpback whales and several blue whales are present statewide. Under triggers established as part of the Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program (RAMP) regulations (PDF) for the commercial fishery as well as regulations for the recreational Dungeness crab fishery, the CDFW Director is required to implement a management action for these fishing zones to reduce marine life entanglement risk.

CDFW anticipates the next risk assessment will take place on or before Nov. 23, 2022, at which time the Director will re-evaluate the temporary recreational crab trap restriction and commercial fishery delay in Fishing Zones 3-6, as well as the need for any management actions for the commercial fishery in Fishing Zones 1 and 2. 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 www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab.

A Map of Fishing Zones off the coast of California.

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

Categories: Fisheries, Fishing, Marine


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