The California commercial Dungeness crab season will close to protect humpback whales from getting entangled in trap and buoy lines. The Calif. Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) stated that crabbing will end on April 8 at 6 p.m. for waters between the Mendocino-Sonoma County line and the border with Mexico, fishing zones 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Aerial and vessel surveys conducted in mid-March showed that humpback whale numbers were increasing as they returned to forage off the state’s coast. A 30-fathom depth constraint will also be implemented for the commercial fishery in fishing zones 1 and 2, Sonoma/ Mendocino County line to the Oregon border.

Commercial Dungeness crab is one of California's significant fisheries. For the past six years, the season, which traditionally began in mid-November, has been delayed and closed earlier than expected. In 2023, the director of CDFW, Charlton Bonham, announced an April 15 closure to the same fishing zones (3, 4, 5, and 6). This year, reports show that Calif. Dungeness crabs have been at a $3 per pound price, which was lower than what crab processors in Oregon were paying. Fishermen have been discouraged, and some did not set their traps when CDFW opened the season for presoak on Jan. 5, following multiple delays.

All open fishing zones will remain under Fleet Advisory for both commercial and recreational Dungeness crab fisheries. Under emergency regulations that were approved in early March, CDFW also authorized commercial crab vessels to retrieve an unlimited amount of commercial Dungeness crab traps, which are lost, damaged, abandoned, or derelict in fishing zones 3 through 6 beginning April 15 at 6 a.m. Individuals operating under the emergency regulations must regularly report retrieved gear to [email protected]. Any fishing vessel that operates or transitions into an open fishing zone must not possess more than six traps belonging to another vessel.

CDFW anticipates that the next risk assessment will take place in mid-April.

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Carli is a Content Specialist for National Fisherman. She comes from a fourth-generation fishing family off the coast of Maine. Her background consists of growing her own business within the marine community. She resides on one of the islands off the coast of Maine while also supporting the lobster community she grew up in.

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