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Commercial Dungeness Crab Season On Hold While Wildlife Officials Watch Winter Whale Migration

BODEGA BAY (KPIX) -- Crab season is still closed amid reports of too many whales still in the area and not enough have moved on in their migration.

Commercial crab fishermen say they do not know when, or even if, the crab season is going to open this year.

California Fish and Wildlife is concerned that whales may become entangled with crab pot lines. The state has delayed the commercial crab season until December 16, hoping the migrating whales will move down the coast to their winter calving grounds in Mexico.

Dick Ogg has fished crab for 45 years. He says there may be a record amount of anchovies off shore and until a major winter storm moves in, he believes the whales will not move out.

"If you were a whale, and you were in an area where you have nothing but good food, you don't have a whole bunch of weather to fight, why would you leave," asks Ogg.

The crab fishing industry is suffering.

John Barnett is a commercial crab fisherman. He has two commercial boats, both tied up in port. He is catching up on maintenance and had to lay off both crews.

"Well, I'm depending on my wife for our household income right now. I haven't really made any money, as well as COVID, it's cutting down a lot of what we did in the summer so, uh, this is has impacted the winter fisheries, It's been a long time," says Barnett.

Crabs are a California tradition for Thanksgiving and Christmas but it is too late for Thanksgiving. Now, Christmas crabs may not make it either.

The situation looks grim, unless you're a whale.

Spud Point Crab Company owner, Tony Anello says the irony is that recreational crab fishing is allowed, even though they use the same gear as commercial fishermen.

"I guess the whales know the difference between recreational traps and commercial traps because they're fishing and we're not," says Anello.

In the next few weeks, Fish And Wildlife will fly over the fishing grounds to see if the whales have moved on or not.

"I don't know how long we're going to able to hold out", says Anello. "Some of us guys are on the verge of losing their homes, on the verge of losing their boats and now, here we go again."

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