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Monterey Bay crab fishermen say new regulations could force them out of business

Crab
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) 19 years. That's how long Tim Obert worked to get where he is today. "We love the ocean. That's why we do this for a job," said Obert.

Obert is now a captain of a Dungeness Crab fishing boat docked in the Santa Cruz Harbor. His team is just a few weeks away from the start of the fishing season that, he said, may not even happen.

"This is a 'make money' fishery. You have to spend it to make the money. That's how it works. You have to spend money to make money. When you don't know if you're going to get that money back, you might spend all your savings just getting ready for the opener, and then there's no opener," said Obert.

Starting November 1, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will be collecting data and aerial surveys of seven fishing zones along the California coast. If 20 whales or sea turtles are spotted in any one zone, Dungeness Crab fishing can be called off.

"At least monthly we will do risk assessments with the director and working group. The goal is to keep the fishing gear and whales apart as much as feasible," California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Scientist, Ryan Bartling.

Bartling said it's called the Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program (RAMP). The CDFW has been working on it since 2017. "Back in 2015, 2016, we saw a higher rate of entanglements. That particular year there were 15 humpbacks entangled and 2 blue whales," said Bartling.

Obert said he has already invested around $100,000 into the fishing season. For now, it is a waiting game. "People are going to lose their houses, jobs and lives. It's something we try not to think about because it's a horrible thought. We base our lives and families on these seasons and us working them," said Obert.

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Megan Meier

Megan Meier is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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