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Commercial Dungeness crab fishery to close to protect Humpback Whales

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Posted at 2:30 PM, Mar 30, 2023

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced a fishery closure for the commercial Dungeness crab fishery from the Sonoma County line to the U.S./Mexico border beginning April 15.

Commercial Dungeness crab fishery in fishing zones 3 -6 will be closed starting at noon on April 15. The take and possession of Dungeness crab is therefore prohibited after that time.

San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County lie in fishing zone 5.

Officials said the season closure is being implemented to minimize entanglement risk for humpback whales as they return to forage off the California coast.

Based on historical migration patterns, CDFW officials anticipate humpback whales will begin arriving in the coming weeks.

In addition, the department has authorized the Lost and Abandoned Gear Retrieval Program to begin removing commercial Dungeness crab traps left in the water beginning April 21 at 6 a.m.

“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 CDFW Director Bonham. “We applaud the Working Group for their dedication and continued focus on the long-term viability of the fishery that helps ensure we protect future opportunities to bring Dungeness crab to Californians and provide protection for whales and sea turtles off our coast.”

Officials at the Center for Biological Diversity agree with the department's decision.

“We know migratory humpback whales come back in big numbers this time of year, so state officials are making the right decision by getting lines out of the water in some areas,” said Catherine Kilduff, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But any fishing puts whales at risk, so ropeless fishing gear is the only way to avoid deadly entanglements. We need more funding, testing and approval for ropeless gear to end these conflicts and reduce risks to whales."

The recreational fishery remains open to crab traps north of Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County, but may be subject to a future trap restriction when humpback whales return to forage during the spring and summer, according to officials.

Click here to learn more about the Dungeness crab fishery.