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Whales On The Move; Commercial Dungeness Crab Season Greenlighted For Dec. 23 Start

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — With migrating whales on the move northward, state wildlife officials have given a green light to commercial fishermen to begin the Dungeness crab season on Dec. 23.

The opening date will allow crab laden fishing boats to make it back to port in San Francisco and Half Moon Bay in time to deliver crab for Christmas -- a tradition in many Bay Area homes.

California's fish and wildlife managers announced the starting date of the season late Friday following a few weeks of delay due to concerns that migrating whales might get tangled in fishing lines and because of low-weight crabs in some areas.

The state Fish and Wildlife Department said recent aerial surveys indicate most whales have started their annual migration out of California waters to their winter breeding ground.

"Available data indicates some whales remain in the fishing grounds but risk is declining and CDFW supports a balanced approach to managing risk and providing opportunity for the commercial fishery that is grounded in expert science," state officials said in a release.

The department had suggested opening the season on Dec. 16 but the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, which includes members of the commercial crab fleet, environmental organizations and other agencies, decided on a seven-day delay to give crabbers more time to get their gear in the water and for the whales to migrate.

"We support any additional measures the fleet or specific ports wish to take to minimize entanglements and also understand the additional hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic," the release said.

Since 2015, all but one commercial Dungeness season has been delayed either due to domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin that contaminates shellfish, detected in the crabs or fishing line danger to whales.

Domoic acid isn't likely to create a problem during the 2020-21 season, Bonham said last month.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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