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Dungeness crab season delay impacts Central Coast seafood restaurants

Posted at 9:35 PM, Nov 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-28 01:36:23-05

You'll have to wait a little longer before you are able to enjoy Dungeness crab at restaurants or at home.

The commercial Dungeness crab season was delayed a second time, this time from December 1st to December 15th for Southern California and until the 16th for Northern California.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the commercial Dungeness Crab season is delayed for two reasons: low meat quality and whale protection.

For regions in the northern management area, it is being delayed due to crab meat quality.

"A percentage of the body weight of crab needs to meet a certain threshold before those fisheries can open," Senior Environmental Scientist for Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Region Ryan Bartling said.

The crab quality has to meet or exceed 24% of the body weight of the crab before a fishery can open.

Wildlife experts are also concerned humpback and blue whales in the fishing grounds could get entangled in crab fishing nets in the central management area, or south of the Sonoma and Mendocino County line.

“Whales are still abundant off of our coast based on recent aerial and vessel based surveys," Bartling said.

Dangers of whale entanglement can be detrimental to a fisherman's business, and owner of Giovanni's Fish Market and Gallery, Giovanni DeGarimore, says he understands the reason behind the delay.

"[Fishermen] can lose a whole year, so they’d rather preemptively shut down and lose a month or two than lose eight months of fishing season,” DeGarimore said.

The holiday season is one of the busiest times for Dungeness crab, and delays like these greatly impact local seafood shops like Giovanni's Fish Market and Gallery in Morro Bay.

“Dungeness crab fisherman have had a really tough last few years. The catches haven’t been great and then we’ve had multiple closures, multiple delays," restaurant owner Giovanni DeGarimore said.

Giovanni's Fish Market and Gallery is working to meet the high demand for crab, but DeGarimore says the price and availability of the product can be challenging.

He's having to rely on out-of-state suppliers.

"We’re having to fly it directly in from Washington right now," he said.

Bartling said whale migration is expected to be underway soon and when that happens, there could be enough time for fisheries to recover.

“I think it really comes down to doing the right thing for the environment, even the fisherman, as frustrated as they are, they understand that they have to do the right thing not just for the whales, but to protect their fishing industry," DeGarimore said.

Another risk assessment will be conducted to collect more data on whale concentrations soon.

For more information on the whale safe fisheries and concentration plans, click here.