Oregon’s Dungeness crab fleet can set gear Sunday, Nov. 28, in preparation for the first on-time Dec. 1 season opening in seven years.

The 2014-15 season was the last to open on time, and since then start dates have been delayed by domoic acid alerts, low meat yields or both – sometimes well into late January.

But the 2021-22 season looks promising, with domoic acid test results well below alert levels for public health and high meat yields, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The agency works with the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission and crab fishermen to test crabs out of Oregon’s six major crabbing ports beginning in early November.

The 2020-21 season was delayed in stages, starting Dec. 16 south of Cape Falcon and Feb. 15, north of Cape Falcon. But the fleet still landed 12.2 million pounds of Dungeness crab coastwide, with an ex-vessel value of $60.6 million dollars.

Meanwhile, humpback whales have headed south and Dungeness crabs passed quality testing off northern California, clearing a way for a Dec. 1 opening in the state’s fishing zones 1 and 2, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Friday, Nov. 19.

With the danger of whale and gera entanglements past, the fishery will open north of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line to the Oregon state line.

The commercial fishery is currently open in fishing zones 5 and 6, from Lopez Point in Monterey County to the Mexico border, but migrating whale numbers are continuing to delay Dungeness fishing off the central coast. Fishing zones 3 and 4, from the Sonoma/Mendocino county line to Lopez Point, remained closed, with high numbers of humpback whales in the Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay.

State officials anticipate the next risk assessment of entanglement hazard will occur Dec. 15.

“Based on aerial and vessel-based surveys, and after consulting with the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will continue to delay the commercial fishery and temporarily restrict recreational crab traps in Fishing Zones 3 and 4,” agency director Charlton Bonham said in a status report.

“Available data indicate high numbers of whales remain in the fishing grounds. When data indicate whales have migrated out of the fishing grounds, CDFW stands ready to open the commercial season and lift the temporary recreational trap restriction in fishing zones 3 and 4.”

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Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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