California’s commercial Dungeness crab fishery will close in most areas April 15, shutting off the season 10 weeks early to reduce risks of humpback whales being entangled in trap lines, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Thursday.
Department director Charlton Bonham issued the order under the state’s Risk Assessment Mitigation Program, affecting fishing zones 3, 4, 5 and 6 from the Sonoma/Mendocino county line south to the U.S.-Mexico border. The closure will take effect at noon April 15, prohibiting commercial take and possession of Dungeness crab.
“This season closure is being implemented to minimize entanglement risk for humpback whales as they return to forage off the coast of California and in response to several entanglements that occurred during March and April of 2022,” according to the CDFW statement.
“Based on historical migration patterns, CDFW anticipates humpback whales will begin arriving in the coming weeks and has determined this action is needed to avoid entanglements during the same period that occurred last season.”
“The fleet has done an impressive job helping CDFW manage entanglement risk in the commercial fishery and appreciates the high level of involvement to inform the risk assessment process,” said Bonham.
Areas north of Point Arena will remain open for commercial harvest. The recreational trap season continues north of Point Arguello in Santa Barbara County, but officials may impose a trap restriction “when humpback whales return to forage during the spring and summer,” according to the state agency.
The state Fish and Game Commission in February approved a first experimental fishery permit for commercial pop-up or “ropeless” crab gear that uses remote controlled buoys without vertical lines to retrieve traps.
“We’re also encouraged by the state and federal funding assistance provided to fishermen to commercially fish with pop-up fishing gear in California under the first ever experimental permits for crabbers to test the gear this spring,” said Geoff Shester, California campaign director and senior scientist with the environmental group Oceana which is promoting the introduction of pop-up gear.