Recreational Dungeness crab trap fishing in Fishing Zone 3 (Sonoma/Mendocino county line to Pigeon Point) opened under a Fleet Advisory beginning at 9 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.
The commercial fishery will open in that area under a Fleet Advisory at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, with a pre-soak period to begin at 8:01 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021. The commercial fishery 40-fathom depth restriction will also be lifted in Fishing Zone 4 beginning at 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 26. The presence of humpback whales within zones 3 and 4 has continued to decline, lowering the risk of entanglements. Based on data collected during the most recent risk assessment, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director has determined that risk of entanglement has declined, and it is time to provide fishing opportunity in all fishing zones. However, informed by requests from port and crab boat owner associations (PDF) in zone 3 to promote a fair and orderly fishery, the season delay in zone 3 will continue until Dec. 29. These groups have requested additional time to prepare and set gear for an orderly start to the commercial fishery. This also gives the remaining whales additional time to leave the fishing grounds, further reducing risk of entanglement when the season opens.
It has been a tremendous undertaking to conduct four risk assessments over the last seven weeks to inform CDFW’s Risk Assessment Mitigation Program (RAMP) for the Dungeness crab fishery. Partnering researchers and federal agencies have conducted numerous aerial and vessel-based surveys to observe marine life concentrations along the coast of California.
“Partner surveys, recommendations from the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group and other data informs the Risk Assessment Mitigation Program,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “All fishing zones will soon be open and we should all be thankful to everyone who participated in this large collaborative effort that works to use the best available science to manage an important California fishery.”
Available data indicate whales remain in zone 3, particularly in waters off Pigeon Point between 50 and 100 fathoms. As a result, Director Bonham is also continuing a Fleet Advisory for all fishing zones and reminds both the commercial and recreational fisheries to implement best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide.
New this season is the addition of entanglement risk delays to the fair start provision described under Fish and Game Code section 8279.1. This provision prohibits a person from taking, possessing onboard or landing crab for commercial purposes from a vessel in an area previously delayed due to marine life entanglement risk, human health risk (e.g. domoic acid), or poor crab quality for a period of 30 days from the date of the opening if that vessel previously participated in other commercial Dungeness crab fishing areas (including those in Oregon and Washington) during the same season. Fair start delays will expire for zone 4 at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, and for zone 3 at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.
For more information related to the risk assessment process, visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page or more information on the Dungeness crab fishery, visit CDFW’s Crab page, including FAQs for the 2021-22 season of the commercial fishery and FAQs for the new recreational crab trap regulations.