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.

Dungeness crabs

CDFW Director Delays Commercial Dungeness Crab Season South of Sonoma/Mendocino County Line

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham has issued a declaration delaying the Nov. 22, 2019 start date for the California Dungeness crab fishery south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line. Under the authority of Section 8276.1(c)(1) of the Fish and Game Code, the Director may restrict take of commercial Dungeness crab after making a preliminary determination that there is a significant risk of marine life entanglement due to fishing gear. The opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in this area will be delayed until Dec. 15, 2019. Pursuant to Fish and Game Code, section 8283, traps may be set and baited 18 hours in advance of the opening date. A pre-soak period can commence at 6 a.m. on Dec. 14, 2019.

Before taking this action, the Director considered all recommendations and information provided within the public notice period that ended at 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 22. No vessel may take, possess or land crab in an area closed for a significant entanglement risk. Fishing gear may not be deployed in any area closed to fishing.

CDFW would like to acknowledge the commitment by the commercial fishing fleet and various stakeholders to help inform management of this important commercial fishery. CDFW understands the crab fishery’s value to coastal communities and is committed to ensuring a robust fishery while taking appropriate steps to minimize marine life entanglements to the extent practicable.

CDFW is committed to continuing to evaluate information as it is available in real-time to ensure that restrictions on the fishery are lifted as expeditiously as possible. CDFW will convene a meeting of the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group in early December to evaluate risk factors and determine if the fishery can be opened prior to Dec. 15.

Throughout 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 webpage.

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

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Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Ryan Bartling, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2877

Dungeness Crab Commercial Season Update

Based on updated information and in response to concerns from the commercial Dungeness crab fleet, including written requests from Port Associations to further delay, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham intends to further delay the start date for the California Dungeness crab fishery south of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line.

Today, Director Bonham issued a preliminary determination that the Nov. 22, 2019 start date poses a significant risk of marine life entanglement. The anticipated management response is a further delay of the opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in that area until Dec. 15, 2019.

An aerial survey conducted by CDFW within Greater Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries on Monday, Nov. 18 showed whales throughout the survey area with concentrations foraging in depths between 30 and 50 fathoms off Point Reyes and Half Moon Bay. CDFW is working to schedule a follow up aerial reconnaissance flight to further evaluate whale presence in advance of Dec. 15 and will convene the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group the first week of December to conduct a risk evaluation.

Under the authority of Fish and Game Code, section 8276.1(c)(1), the Director may restrict take of commercial Dungeness crab if there is a significant risk of marine life entanglement due to fishing gear. As required in Fish and Game Code, section 8276.1(c)(4), the Director is providing 48 hours’ notice to the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group and other stakeholders.

Director Bonham will consider any recommendations or new information provided by 4:45 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019. Anyone with recommendations and information related to this preliminary determination should submit it to whalesafefisheries@wildlife.ca.gov by that deadline.

No vessel may take, possess or land crab in an area closed for a significant entanglement risk. Fishing gear may not be deployed in any area closed to fishing.

CDFW, the fleet and the interested stakeholders are still at the start of an emerging effort to implement real-time decision-making processes. For the last 24 hours, CDFW has been engaged in real-time discussion and decision making, responding to industry requests for further delay.

Everyone recognizes the risks and all are committed to addressing that risk and developing the tools to assess and manage risk with more refinement. CDFW is committed to continuing to evaluate information as it is available in real-time to ensure that restrictions on the fishery are lifted as expeditiously as possible. CDFW appreciates the challenges and difficulties that come with the beginning of a new approach, and we appreciate the understanding of the public, the fleet, the Working Group and Californians hungry for crabs.

In related news, test results received today from the California Department of Public Health show there is no longer a public health concern regarding the safety of crab from the Mendocino/Sonoma county line to the California/Mexico border.

For the latest information on the Dungeness crab season, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab and 2019-2020 Dungeness Crab Fishery Best Practices Guide.

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Media Contacts:
Ryan Bartling, CDFW Marine Region, (415) 761-1843
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

CDFW Announces Quality Delay for Commercial Dungeness Crab in Northern Fishery, and Important Updates to Pending Opening in Central Fishery

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

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

In a memo released today, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham delayed the northern California commercial Dungeness crab season due to poor crab meat quality test results. The delayed area in the north includes Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties (Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9).

The northern Dungeness crab fishery is delayed until 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019 pending another round of testing tentatively scheduled on or around Dec. 1. If these results indicate good quality and there is no area under an additional domoic acid delay, the fishery will open Monday, Dec. 16, and be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin 8:01 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.

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 in conjunction with tests done in Oregon and Washington. If results indicate poor crab quality, the CDFW director may delay the fishery under authority of Fish and Game Code, section 8276.2.

“This industry-supported quality test determines if Dungeness crab have filled out in time following their molting period,” said CDFW Environmental Scientist Christy Juhasz.

If the next round of quality testing continues to show low quality crab, Director Bonham has the authority to delay the season an additional 15 days, until Dec. 31. The season can be delayed no later than Jan. 15, which is what happened in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons.

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

The Central Management Area (Sonoma County and south) was delayed seven days by declaration of the Director to avoid marine life entanglements and opens at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, assuming no additional delays due to domoic acid. This opening is preceded by an 18-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 6:01 a.m. on Nov. 21.

However, ocean waters between Point Reyes, Marin County (38° 00.00’ N. latitude) and the northern boundary of Pillar Point State Marine Conservation Area in San Mateo County (37° 30.00’ N. latitude) has yet to clear for domoic acid. The opening or delay of the fishery in this area will be announced prior to 6 p.m. on Nov. 20.  If the scheduled opener in this area is declared delayed, the fleet will be informed when the area is cleared of domoic acid and, pursuant to Fish and Game Code, section 5523, will be given a 72-hour notice before pre-soak is to commence.

The fleet will be notified via press release and the Dungeness Crab Task Force email listserv as well as the CDFW Domoic Acid Fishery Closure Information Line at (831) 649-2883. All individuals planning to fish in this area are strongly encouraged to check these sources in order to confirm the opening time prior to setting their gear in this area.

For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab and read CDFW’s Frequently Asked Questions on the 2019-2020 Dungeness crab commercial season.

For more information on health advisories related to fisheries, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/health-advisories.

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Media Contacts:
Christy Juhasz, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2887 
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

CDFW Director Issues Declaration to Delay Commercial Dungeness Crab Season South of Mendocino/Sonoma County Line

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham has issued a declaration delaying the Nov. 15, 2019 start date for the California Dungeness crab fishery south of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line. Under the authority of section 8276.1(c)(1) of the Fish and Game Code, the Director may restrict take of commercial Dungeness crab after making a preliminary determination that there is a significant risk of marine life entanglement due to fishing gear. The opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in that area (Districts 10, 17,18 and 19) will be delayed until Nov. 22, 2019. Pursuant to Fish and Game Code, section 8283, traps may be set and baited 18 hours in advance of the opening date. A pre-soak period can commence at 6 a.m. on Nov. 21, 2019.

CDFW would like to acknowledge the commitment by the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group and various stakeholders to help inform management of this important commercial fishery. CDFW understands the crab fishery’s value to coastal communities and is committed to ensuring a robust fishery while taking appropriate steps to minimize marine life entanglements to the extent practicable.

Before taking this action, the Director considered all recommendations and information provided within the public notice period that ended at 5 p.m. on Nov. 4 in advance of enacting this delay. Comments received resulted in the Director shortening the delay from eight to seven days.

Through the course of the crab season, CDFW will engage regularly with the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group to review scientific information and advise efforts to minimize the risk of whale and sea turtle entanglements. 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 webpage. Commercial fishery participants should also be aware that additional delays are possible due to human health risks from domoic acid and should monitor the California Department of Public Health’s website for the latest results.

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

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Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Ryan Bartling, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2877