Four zones of the state’s commercial Dungeness crab fishery from the Sonoma and Mendocino county line to the U.S. Mexico border were closed down at noon April 15 to protect humpback whales, California fisheries officials said.
The announcement of the closure was made March 30 by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The closure impacts Zones 3, 4, 5 and 6. Zones 1 through 6 also remain under a fleet advisory for both the commercial and recreational Dungeness crab fisheries.
The action came in the wake of the department’s entanglement risk assessment, according to CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. The take and possession of Dungeness crab is prohibited as of that time and date, to minimize entanglement risk for humpback whales as they return to forage off the coast of California, and in response to several entanglements that occurred during March and April of 2022.
CDFW officials said the recreational fishery remained open to crab traps north of Point Arguerllo in Santa Barbara County, but might be subject to a future trap restriction when humpback whales return to forage in the spring and summer.
CDFW also reminded all anglers to be prepared to quickly remove fishing gear from remaining open areas if an entanglement risk was elevated.
Based on historical migration patterns, CDFW officials said they anticipated humpback whales arriving in April, and such action was needed to avoid entanglements during the same period in 2023.
CDFW also authorized the Lost and Abandoned Gear Retrieval Program to begin removing commercial Dungeness crab traps left in the water beginning at 6 a.m. April 21 in zones 3, 4, 5 and 6.