California fisheries officials plan to close four zones of the state’s commercial Dungeness crab fishery from the Sonoma-Mendocino county line to the U.S.-Mexico border at noon on April 15 to protect humpback whales.
The closure, announced March 30 by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), 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.
CDFW officials said the recreational fishery remained open to crab traps north of Point Arguerllo, 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 anglers to be prepared to quickly remove fishing gear from remaining open areas if an entanglement risk was elevated.
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 California coast, and in response to several entanglements that occurred during March and April of 2022.
Fish and Wildlife officials said that based on historical migration patterns, they anticipated humpback whales arriving in April, and such action was needed to avoid entanglements during the same period as a year ago.
The California agency 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.
Bonham said the fleet did an impressive job helping CDFW manage entanglement risk in that commercial fishery and appreciated their involvement to inform the risk assessment process.