Dungeness Crab Fishery Updates: Pending Commercial Opening in Central Fishery, Health Advisory Update to Recreational Fishery, and Additional Northern Commercial Quality Delay

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is providing the following important updates and information on the status of the central and northern commercial California Dungeness crab fisheries and northern recreational fishery.

Central Management Area (Fish and Game Districts 10 and south)

On Nov. 22, the Central Management Area (Sonoma County and south) opener was delayed until Dec. 15 by declaration of the Director to avoid marine life entanglements. At CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham’s request, the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group was convened on Dec. 4 to review new information and conduct an updated risk assessment. The Working Group provided a consensus recommendation to open the fishery as soon as possible, while providing the fishery sufficient notice prior to Dec. 15.  No minority recommendations were expressed. After considering the Working Group’s updated assessment, the Director is proceeding with the Dec. 15 opener. The Central Management Area will open at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15. This opening is preceded by an 18-hour gear setting period that will begin at 6:01 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14.

Through the course of the crab season, CDFW will engage regularly with the Working Group to review scientific information and advise efforts to minimize the risk of whale and sea turtle entanglements while maximizing fishing opportunity. Based on that process, CDFW may take additional management actions in response to future risk assessments. For more information related to the risk assessment process or this delay, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page.

Domoic Acid Update

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) lifted a health advisory for recreational Dungeness crabs caught near Shelter Cove, Humboldt County (40° 01′ N. Latitude) to Point Arena (38° 57.5′ N. Latitude). CDPH lifted this advisory today due to recent tests showing that the amount of domoic acid has declined to low or undetectable levels in Dungeness crabs caught in the area, indicating that they are safe to consume. Although there are currently no areas under an active health advisory for Dungeness crab in the state, CDPH recommends consumers follow best practices to avoid any inadvertent exposure to domoic acid that might be sporadically found in the crab viscera.

Northern Management Area (Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9)

Director Bonham has also announced an additional 15-day delay of the northern California commercial Dungeness crab season. The new opener is Dec. 31, 2019. Results of the Dec. 3 quality test continue to show crab are below the minimum testing guidelines established by the Tri-State Dungeness Crab Committee and are not yet ready for harvesting.

Delays due to quality affect the entire northern commercial fishery in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties (California Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9). The season in these districts is now scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, to be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2019.

Additional testing will be scheduled to occur by Dec. 20 to determine whether the season can open on Dec. 31 or will be delayed once more until Jan. 15, 2020.

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). 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 the delayed area for 30 days following the opening of that area.

For more information, please see CDFW’s Frequently Asked Questions regarding the 2019-2020 Dungeness crab commercial season and www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Whale-Safe-Fisheries.

For more information on Dungeness crab, please visit: www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab.