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Concerns Over Possible Whale Entanglements Delay Commercial Crabbing Season

BODEGA BAY (KPIX 5) -- The opening of the commercial Dungeness crab season this year -- like last year and the year before that -- is being delayed yet again. But this time, it's not about the crabs.

This year, the delay is over concerns about the whales and other marine life. Whales that sometimes get tangled in the lines of the crab traps. The commercial season is being delayed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for one week to allow time for whales to pass before the traps are set.

Commercial fishermen said they understand the concerns and don't want to harm whales.

"The whales are the ones we are worrying about. The objective is to not entangle the whales," said Spud Point Crab Company Owner Tony Anello.

But commercial crab fishermen are still trying to make a living and supply crabs for Thanksgiving. The latest delay is discouraging.

"For the last five or six years. there's been a problem. Either Domoic acid or price negotiations or, you know, now the whale entanglement problem," said Anello.

He says some commercial fishermen have had to give it up. Meanwhile, the sport or recreational crab fishermen are not delayed.

The Bodega Bay Public Boat Ramp was busy Tuesday. Patrick Hoffman and his buddy Shawn said they have caught lots of crabs.

"There's just buoys all over out there so, lot's of bobbing and weaving getting through," said Hoffman. "Their job is just as important. They're making a living and we're out here -- it's just a hobby. For them, it's their life."

It's not clear how many whales the one week delay will help, so the migration is being carefully watched by fishermen.

For more information related to the risk assessment process or the delay over entanglement concerns, interested visit CDFW's Whale Safe Fisheries webpage.

The CDFW also reiterated that commercial fishermen should also be aware of possible additional delays due to human health risks from domoic acid. The California Department of Public Health's website will provide the latest results.

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