Entanglement Settlement Protects Whales, Sea Turtles and California’s Crab Fishery

SAN FRANCISCO — Californians will be pleased to know that Dungeness crab will be caught off the coast with greater care for endangered wildlife under a settlement announced by the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA).

The legal settlement protects whales and sea turtles from entanglement in commercial Dungeness crab gear. The Center for Biological Diversity sued CDFW in October 2017 after a drastic increase in the number of whale entanglements off the West Coast.

“As I’ve said many times, no one wants whale entanglements to happen,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “This agreement represents hours of intense negotiation to help ensure they don’t happen while supporting the resiliency of the crab fishery in the long run. I am thankful for the leadership of the Center for Biological Diversity and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations who realized something needed to be done together.”

“This is great news for whales and sea turtles fighting extinction off California’s coast,” said Kristen Monsell, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney. “The settlement will reduce serious threats from crab gear to these beautiful and highly endangered animals. This agreement is a turning point that gets us closer to zero entanglements and a healthy ocean.”

The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity against CDFW (Center for Biological Diversity v. Bonham) in federal court in San Francisco. The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, which represents crabbers, intervened in the lawsuit.

The settlement, subject to court approval, creates a comprehensive approach to the problem of whale entanglements. It expedites state regulation, ensures stakeholder input from the Dungeness crab Fishing Gear Working Group and formalizes a first-ever commitment by CDFW to pursue a federal permit for protecting endangered species. While these steps are executed, the settlement calls for this year’s crab season to end three months early and prescribes protective measures for future springtime fishing seasons, when the greatest number of whales are present off the California coast.

In November 2018, CDFW announced it would seek a federal permit under the Endangered Species Act to address protected species interactions with the crab fishery. Obtaining a permit and developing a conservation plan as part of that process can take years, so the settlement spells out interim protections.

“This settlement represents the path back to normality for California’s crab fishery with built-in protections for whales and crab fishing operations under the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of PCFFA. “The past several years have been extraordinarily challenging for fishing families, and the actions we’re taking here are no exception. But in the end, we’re going to emerge together with a resilient, prosperous, and protective fishery that will continue to feed California and the nation.”

Details of the settlement can be found at http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=166146.

The mission of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is to manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations is the largest commercial fishermen’s organization on the West Coast, representing 17 local and regional associations from Santa Barbara to Southeast Alaska. As a major commercial fishing industry trade association, PCFFA represents the interests of commercial fishing families who make their living harvesting and delivering high-quality seafood to America’s tables.

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Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW, (916) 654-9937
Kristen Monsell, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7137
Noah Oppenheim, PCFFA, (415) 723-1801 or Michael Coats, (707) 235-6203

CDFW Magnifies Efforts to Recruit Hunters and Anglers

In an effort to get more Californians involved in fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is partnering with the recreational fishing and hunting communities, state and federal agencies, and others to address barriers and opportunities to hunting and fishing in the state.

“Our goal is to support and encourage people to get outdoors and enjoy California’s wild places,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “The fishing and hunting opportunities in this state are unparalleled, they belong to all Californians and should be utilized by all of us. This effort is to make sure Californians know that.”

CDFW has formed an executive-level task force, hired a full-time coordinator to head-up the effort, hired a research scientist, and finalized a statewide recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) action plan. A staff-level working group is working to increase hunting and fishing participation by collaborating with diverse stakeholders to transform barriers to participation into opportunities. Some of the barriers CDFW will look at initially are access and opportunity challenges, public perception of fishing and hunting, and license structure and pricing. The effort will also focus on encouraging more adults to take up hunting and fishing for the first time.

Research shows spending time outdoors improves physical, mental and social well-being. Many hunters and anglers say the reason they participate in these activities is to enjoy the quality time with family and friends and to bring home great memories and healthy food.

California is home to some of the nation’s most diverse hunting and fishing opportunities, but participation in these activities has declined significantly since the 1970s and 1980s. Hunters and anglers play a crucial role in managing natural resources by regulating wildlife populations to maintain ecological and biological diversity, participating in wildlife surveys for scientific data collection, and reporting wildlife crimes. Hunters and anglers also help sustain a multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation industry and provide the primary funding source for state-level fish and wildlife conservation in California. The decline in participation poses an ever-increasing threat to wildlife conservation, the state’s long-standing hunting and fishing heritage, and Californians’ connection to the outdoors in general.

“The fishing and hunting community has rallied around CDFW, and we are now poised to tackle the challenges before us,” Bonham said.

To get involved or learn more about the state’s R3 efforts, please contact Jennifer.Benedet@wildlife.ca.gov.

Media Contacts:
Jen Benedet, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 903-9270
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 651-7824

Recreational and Commercial Dungeness Crab Fisheries to Open in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham issued a declaration to open the recreational and commercial Dungeness crab fisheries from Patrick’s Point, Humboldt County north to the California/Oregon state line.

The area from the Patrick’s Point, Humboldt County (41° 8.00’ N. Latitude) north to the California/Oregon state line was closed due to elevated levels of domoic acid. Public health agencies have determined that domoic acid no longer poses a significant risk to public health in this area.

The recreational Dungeness crab fishery is now open in this area.

Under recent amendments to Section 5523 of the Fish and Game Code, the CDFW Director may provide a minimum of 72-hours’ notice before a gear setting period. Therefore, the Director has declared the commercial fishery to open at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, to be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019.

For more information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions regarding the 2018-19 Dungeness crab commercial season.

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Memo from Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (1/18/19)

For more information on health advisories related to fisheries, please visit: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories

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

 

Northern Commercial Dungeness Crab Season Further Delayed in Ocean Waters North of Patrick’s Point, Humboldt County due to Public Health Hazard

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham delayed the opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery from Patrick’s Point, Humboldt County north to the California/Oregon state line after state health agencies recommended to delay the fishery in the area due to elevated levels of domoic acid.

The commercial Dungeness crab fishery in the area south of Patrick’s Point, Humboldt County to the Sonoma/Mendocino county line will open at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, to be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12.

This delay shall remain in effect until the Director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), in consultation with the State Public Health Officer at California Department of Public Health (CDPH), determines that domoic acid no longer poses a significant risk to public health and recommends opening the fishery in this region. CDFW will continue to coordinate with CDPH and OEHHA to test domoic acid levels in Dungeness crab to determine when the commercial fishery in this area can safely be opened.

No vessel may take, possess or land crab within a delayed area during the closure period. In addition, any vessel that takes, possesses on board or lands Dungeness crab from ocean waters outside of this delayed area is prohibited from taking, possessing onboard or landing Dungeness crab for 30 days in this area once it opens to commercial fishing pursuant to Section 8279.1 of the Fish and Game Code.

Once a positive determination is made to open the fishery, CDFW may provide the fleet a minimum of 72-hour advance notice announcing when trap gear can be set.

For more information, please see CDFW’s Frequently Asked Questions regarding the 2018-19 Dungeness crab commercial season.

This area north of Patrick’s Point remains closed for recreational take of Dungeness crab, also due to domoic acid.

Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin produced by a naturally occurring marine alga, whose levels can be increased under certain ocean conditions, and can accumulate in shellfish, other invertebrates and sometimes fish. It causes illness and sometimes death in a variety of birds and marine mammals that consume affected organisms. At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures and death.

For more information:

Memo from Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (1/7/2019)

CDFW Director’s Closure Declaration (1/7/2019)

2018-19 Frequently Asked Questions for the Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery (12/3/2018)

www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories

www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab

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

Northern California Commercial Dungeness Crab Season Delay Extended

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.

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Media Contacts:
Christy Juhasz, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2887
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988