Your holiday table may be less crabby this year—no, not in that way, we know you're happy to see each other—as the state fishery has delayed the Dungeness crab commercial and recreational season.
The fishing grounds from Monterey to Point Arena and along the Mendocino County coast have been affected by the delay. The season would normally start Nov. 15 however, due to the presence of humpback whales and leatherback sea turtles and the potential for entanglement, the season has been delayed under new regulations created last year by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife.
It's the second season in a row that the presence of wildlife has caused a delay to crabbing.
According to state officials, 11 humpbacks have been entangled in various types of fishing gear off the coast so far this year. The new regulations are designed to protect wildlife.
“This is the first time the recreational Dungeness crab fishery is subject to similar measures as commercial crabbers to help protect whales and sea turtles," Charlton H. Bonham, the director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in an announcement about the delay. "We recognize that change takes time but thank all Californians who treasure these recreational fishing opportunities. We continue to value and appreciate the work put in by the fleet and the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group.
"This year, while the start of the recreational season may look different, the process allowed us to open some parts of the coast to recreational crab traps and all the coast to recreational crabbing with other fishing methods. This shows there is a way to partner more closely with the recreational fishery to protect California's whales and sea turtles while still providing meaningful recreational and commercial fishing opportunities.”
Monterey sits on the cusp of fishing Zone 3 and Zone 4, which are both affected by the delay. Aerial surveys, vessel-based surveys and satellite telemetry data concluded that humpbacks and leatherbacks sea turtles are still present in those zones.
California Department Fish and Wildlife officials anticipate the next assessment will take place Nov. 22, one week after the originally scheduled season opening date and in time for Thanksgiving. At that time, CDFW will reevaluate the delay.
Meanwhile, recreational fishermen and tour guides are reevaluating their options. “We have had trips planned, but we have to cancel them till at least Nov. 22,” says Brianna Garcia of Monterey-based J&M Sport Fishing. “We had to call a lot people and get them an alternative trip; we are hopeful.”
For information about how and where to fish legally, visit the CDFW's website.