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California’s commercial Dungeness crab season to begin at the end of December

CBS

SAN FRANCISCO — Update Dec. 22, 2022, at 5:13 p.m.- After being delayed multiple times, Dungeness crab season will open on Dec. 31, announced the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Thursday.

The season will not open under a Fleet Advisory and 50% gear reduction for Fishing Zones 3-6, which includes all areas south of the Sonoma/ Mendocino county lines. This is to further help endangered humpback whales from getting entangled in vertical fishing lines used in crab traps.

We commend the efforts of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group for prioritizing the safety of whales, ensuring these magnificent animals could feed and migrate towards their breeding grounds off Mexico and Central America without the risk of entanglement. With more whales now on their way from our shores and arriving at their calving grounds, Oceana supports the Dungeness crab season opener with the additional protections included—welcome news for consumers who want to enjoy this local seafood without deadly consequences to marine mammals and sea turtles. However, we hope to see fishermen and fishery managers proceed with caution as per the Department’s Fleet Advisory, as far too many humpback whales have been entangled in recent years and we can’t afford any more entanglements.

OCEANA

According to OCEANA, roughly 75%of reported whale entanglements are fatal, as whales can drag heavy fishing gear for months, hindering their ability to dive and feed.

ORIGINAL STORY

The start of the commercial Dungeness crab season in California has been delayed further to protect humpback whales from becoming entangled in trap and buoy lines.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife said Wednesday that commercial crabbing will be delayed until at least Dec. 30. The situation will be reassessed on or before Dec. 22.

It's the third delay for the start of the commercial season, which traditionally begins Nov. 15 for waters between the Mendocino county line and the border with Mexico.

The crab industry is one of California’s major fisheries and the shellfish is especially popular around the holidays.

Geoff Shester with the nonprofit conservation group Oceana, commended officials for extending the delay.

"Elevated whale entanglement risk is becoming the new norm in the fall and spring months, so the crab fishing season with conventional vertical line gear is likely to get shorter and shorter," Shester said in a statement.

Humpback whales can get caught in the vertical ropes connected to heavy commercial traps, which they can drag around for months, leaving them injured, starved or so exhausted that they can drown.

The fish and game department said last month that there have been at least 15 confirmed entanglements of humpback whales by fishing gear off California this year, including three involving Dungeness crab gear.

Humpback whales migrate north annually from Mexico’s Baja California peninsula where they birth calves. In spring, summer and fall the humpbacks feed on anchovies, sardines and krill off the California coast before heading back south.

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Associated Press

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