California’s Dungeness crab season is on hold yet again, as state officials gauge the migration of humpback whales offshore and low crab meat quality in the fishery’s northern range.
Scheduled for Nov. 15, the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in Fishing Zones 3-6 has been delayed “due to presence of high numbers of humpback whales and the potential for entanglement with lines and traps in this fishery,” according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
A new assessment is planned on or before Dec. 7. If whale activity appears to allow for a safe fishery opening, it could happen in the zones 3 through 6 on Dec. 16, according to the agency.
The northern crab season remains closed because of poor crab meat quality test results from off Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties in Fishing Zones 1 and 2. The northern fishery is delayed until 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 16, pending another round of meat quality testing. If those results show good meat quality, the fishery will open and be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period starting at 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 13.
California crab fishing has been disrupted for several fall and winter seasons in recent years. The state’s Risk Assessment Mitigation Program has set parameters that trigger seasonal adjustments in fishing times and areas to reduce entanglement danger. That decision process has led to a loss of market for crabs around Thanksgiving, traditionally a high time right after the season opener.