The initiation of the commercial Dungeness crab season is underway in Del Norte County, California, with zones 1 and 2 (from the Sonoma County line to the Oregon border) open for crabbing as announced by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFWD). However, zones 3-6, situated south of the Sonoma/Mendocino region, will continue to face restrictions.
Persistent delays in the commencement of the crab season are attributed to a rise in humpback whale entanglements and an increased number of whale sightings, according to the DFWD Assessment and Mitigation program. A recent incident involved an endangered Pacific Sea Turtle becoming entangled and succumbing to drowning in commercial crabbing gear.
The recreational fishery, which opened on November 4 with hoop nets, has seen restrictions lifted in zone 1, the most northerly part of California. The National Fisheries Service reports that 75 percent of reported whale entanglements result in fatalities, as the colossal mammals can drag heavy fishing gear for extended periods, impeding their ability to dive, feed, breed, and survive. The CDFW documented 16 separate humpback and gray whale entanglements in California, with four linked to commercial crabbing nets.
For the calendar year 2023, a total of 24 whales have become entangled along the West Coast. The NMFS is proposing an upgrade of the California commercial Dungeness crab Fishery to Category 1, a classification reserved for fisheries with a frequent likelihood of causing serious harm or fatality to marine mammals.
The next DFWD Assessment is scheduled for January 11.
Source: Roger Gitlin (Jan 1, 2024). Dungeness Crab season begins January 5. The Triplicate. https://www.triplicate.com/news/dungeness-crab-season-begins-january-5/article_461c211e-a8ed-11ee-87bb-ef2e0ff4532a.html