New Restrictions Placed on California Dungeness Crab Traps

Dungeness crab
New restrictions have been put in place for traps utilized in California’s recreational Dungeness crab fishery. Photo via California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

New restrictions have been put in place for traps utilized in California’s recreational Dungeness crab fishery, which opens statewide on Nov. 6, in an effort to reduce entanglement risks for whales and sea turtles.

Under new regulations announced Nov. 1 by the state’s Fish and Game Commission, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has the authority to prohibit use of traps in the fishery to minimize entanglement from lines and buoys typically used with trap gear. A crab trap gear prohibition would also prevent use of crab traps in the rock crab fishery.

Use of hoop nets and snares (crab loop traps) are not affected by the new regulations and may be used to catch Dungeness crab when the season opens.

The commercial Dungeness crab fishery south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line was set to open on Nov. 15 in fishing zones 3, 4, 5 and 6. However the season opener has bene delayed in fishing zones 3 and 4 due to the presence of humpback whales and leatherback sea turtles and the potential for entanglement. Fishing zones 5 and 6 are set to open Nov. 15, under a fleet advisory, pending Domoic Acid testing results.

Crabbers are reminded to sign up for email updates on CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries webpage ( and to check for season updates before heading out.

Crabbers are also reminded that the new regulations require recreational crab traps to have a single standardized main buoy which measures at least five inches by 11 inches, and a single red marker buoy measuring three inches by five inches. No additional buoys or trailer buoys may be used.

There is also a 10-trap limit and all traps must be serviced at least every nine days.

CDFW Director Charlton Bonham will be using the Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program regulations for the coming weeks to assess risk of entanglement for whales and sea turtles off the California coast in both recreational and commercial fisheries.

Recent survey data indicates a significant number of humpback whales and Pacific leatherback sea turtles still foraging along California’s coastal waters. Bonham is expected to review available data and recommendations from CDFW staff and the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group when making decisions on recreational and commercial fisheries during these upcoming risk assessments.