SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Friday said the commercial crabbing season north of Mendocino will open Dec. 1, but the season remained on hold south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line.
In an update issued Friday afternoon, CDFW officials said humpback whales had largely migrated out of Fishing Zones 1 and 2, with crabs in those zones passing quality testing. That means the commercial fishery north of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line to the Oregon state line is now set to open on Dec. 1, giving commercial crabbers a chance to get crab on tables in homes and restaurants before the end of the year.
While the commercial fishery has been open in Fishing Zones 5 and 6 -- the area running south from Lopez Point in Monterey County to the Mexico border -- the commercial fishery continues to be delayed in Fishing Zones 3 and 4 south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line to Lopez Point, due to the presence of significant numbers of humpback whales in the Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay.
Officials had announced the delay to the start of Dungeness crab fishing season from Monterey to Point Arena earlier this month.
Recreational crabbers in Fishing Zones 1 and 2 and those using hoop nets in Fishing Zones 3 and 4 have so far reported successful crabbing. The recreational fishery for Dungeness crab is open in all Fishing Zones across the state, while there is still temporary crab trap restriction for Fishing Zones 3 and 4.
The temporary trap restriction in Fishing Zones 3 and 4 will continue due to the presence of humpback whales and the potential for entanglement in trap gear. Recreational crabbing by other methods -- including hoop nets and crab snares -- is not affected by the temporary trap restriction.
"Based on aerial and vessel-based surveys, and after consulting with the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will continue to delay the commercial fishery and temporarily restrict recreational crab traps in Fishing Zones 3 and 4," said CDFW Director Charlton Bonham in the release. "Available data indicate high numbers of whales remain in the fishing grounds. When data indicate whales have migrated out of the fishing grounds, CDFW stands ready to open the commercial season and lift the temporary recreational trap restriction in Fishing Zones 3 and 4."
Early next month, the CDFW Director will reassess entanglement risk in Fishing Zones 3 and 4. The release noted that CDFW staff --along with collaborators and partners -- have scheduled additional surveys in the next two weeks that, weather permitting, are anticipated to provide the data necessary to reassess whale presence. Officials said they anticipate the next risk assessment will occur on or before Dec. 15.
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