The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham announced an additional and final 15-day delay of the northern California commercial Dungeness crab season. Pending possible closures due to elevated levels of domoic acid, the season is now set to begin on Jan. 15, 2019.
Quality tests as prescribed by the Pre-Season Testing Protocol for the Tri-State Coastal Dungeness Commercial Fishery were scheduled to occur this week, but rough ocean conditions prevented vessels from safely deploying and retrieving traps. This protocol requires that tested crab achieve a meat recovery rate to ensure that crab are ready for harvest. Previous quality test results from Dungeness crab collected on Nov. 3 and Dec. 4 indicated that crab did not have enough meat. Without any passing test results from these areas, the Director continued to delay the season to Jan. 15, the final date a quality delay can be set to occur.
Delays due to quality only affect the northern commercial fishery in California Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 (Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties). The season in these districts is now scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 15, 2019, to be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Jan. 12, 2019. Two areas in northern California continue to be sampled for domoic acid and it is unknown whether any further delays may occur based continued domoic acid testing.
Crab are evaluated to compare meat weight to total crab weight to determine whether they are ready for harvest under testing guidelines established by the Tri-State Dungeness Crab Committee. If results indicate low or poor quality, the Director may delay the fishery in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, under authority of Fish and Game Code, section 8276.2.
No vessel may take or land crab in an area closed for a meat quality delay (i.e., Fish and Game districts 6, 7, 8 and 9) or within an area closed for a domoic acid delay. In addition, any vessel that takes, possesses onboard or lands crab from ocean waters outside of a delayed area is prohibited from participating in the crab fishery in any delayed area for 30 days following the opening of those areas. This applies to any delayed areas in Oregon and Washington as well as in California.
Please refer to the latest Frequently Asked Questions for the current 2018-19 season that addresses questions regarding the Fair Start provision.
For more information about Dungeness crab fisheries in California, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab.
For more information on health advisories related to fisheries, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/health-advisories.