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California officials to end commercial Dungeness crab season April 8 to protect whales

Commercial Dungeness crab fishing season to end April 8
Commercial Dungeness crab fishing season to end April 8 02:39

The commercial Dungeness crab season in California will come to an end early to protect humpback whales from becoming entangled in trap and buoy lines, officials announced Thursday.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife said the shutdown of the commercial crabbing season will cover waters between the Mendocino-Sonoma county line and the border with Mexico.

It marks the second year in a row that Fish and Wildlife officials ordered an early end to the season. In 2023, the order came on April 14. And the early closure follows a late start in January that already foreshortened the season severely.

The recreational take of Dungeness crab using traps in those areas will also be prohibited. Recreational crabbers will be able to use other methods, including hoop nets and crab snares.

North of the Mendocino-Sonoma county line to the Oregon border, commercial crabbing will only be permitted to a depth of 180 feet, officials said.

"Aerial and vessel surveys conducted in mid-March show humpback whale numbers are increasing as they return to forage off the coast of California, elevating entanglement risk," the department said in a statement.

The situation will be reassessed in mid-April. More information can be found on the California Fish and Wildlife website.

The commercial crab industry is one of California's major fisheries. For the past six years there have been delays and prohibitions for the crabbing season, which traditionally begins in mid-November, because of the potential risk to whales.

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.

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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