As the Dungeness crab season approaches on November 4, 2023, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has announced temporary restrictions on recreational crab traps in certain areas. These restrictions are aimed at safeguarding humpback whales and preventing potential entanglement with trap gear.
Starting on November 4th, the recreational take of Dungeness crab using crab traps will be limited in Fishing Zones 3 and 4, covering the region between the Sonoma/Mendocino county line and Lopez Point in Monterey County. However, it’s essential to note that this restriction does not apply to other recreational methods of crabbing, including hoop nets and crab snares, which remain permissible statewide from November 4th.
Recreational crab traps can still be used in Fishing Zones 1, 2, 5, and 6 without any restrictions.
Additionally, a Fleet Advisory has been issued for all Fishing Zones (1-6) within the recreational fishery to ensure awareness of these limitations.
For the commercial Dungeness crab fishery south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line, which was scheduled to open on November 15, 2023, in Fishing Zones 3, 4, 5, and 6, the season opener has been postponed due to the substantial presence of humpback whales. Large groups of these whales have been actively foraging between Bodega Bay and Monterey, posing a heightened risk of entanglement with crab trap gear.
The decision to restrict the use of crab traps in specific zones is aimed at protecting these magnificent marine creatures while striving to optimize fishing opportunities for both recreational and commercial crab fleets. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife acknowledges the commitment of these fleets and the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group to manage entanglement risks in this iconic fishery.
Recreational crabbers in affected areas are encouraged to follow best practices as outlined in the Best Practices Guide.
Furthermore, proposed regulations for recreational groundfish, if adopted, will permit the deployment of Dungeness crab traps shoreward of the 50-fathom Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) boundary line when groundfish are onboard. However, until these emergency regulations are in place, no fishing gear of any type may be deployed shoreward of the 50-fathom RCA line when shelf rockfish, slope rockfish, or lingcod are onboard.
The CDFW plans to conduct the next risk assessment on or before November 17, 2023. At that time, the Director will re-evaluate the risk for the Dungeness crab fisheries. This assessment will play a pivotal role in determining the potential for a statewide commercial fishery opener on December 1 and the potential modification of the recreational trap restriction.
For more information about the risk assessment process and how it relates to whale safety, visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page. For comprehensive information on the Dungeness crab fishery, visit wildlife.ca.gov/crab. Stay informed and help protect our marine wildlife while enjoying this beloved tradition.