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

fishermen with crab gear and kayak

California Recreational Dungeness Crab Season Opens Nov. 2

As thousands of recreational anglers await the start of the statewide sport season for Dungeness crab on Saturday, Nov. 2, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is advising anglers not to consume the viscera of crab caught in two coastal areas due to the presence of domoic acid.

In a health advisory issued today, CDPH advises recreational anglers not to consume the viscera (guts) of Dungeness crab caught from Shelter Cove in Humboldt County (40° 01.00′ N. Lat.) south to Point Arena in Mendocino County (38° 57.50′ N. Lat.) and from Point Reyes in Marin County (38 ° 00.00′ N. Lat.) south to Pillar Point in San Mateo County (37° 30.00′ N. Lat.).

Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin produced by a naturally occurring marine diatom (algae). Under certain ocean conditions large blooms of these diatoms occur and then accumulate in Dungeness crab. 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. Please remember to eviscerate any crab caught in these regions prior to cooking. This reduces the risk of domoic acid poisoning. Check the CDPH Domoic Acid webpage for the latest crab test results.

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2, recreational crabbers are limited to a daily bag and possession limit of 10 crabs that are at least 5 ¾ inches in width as measured by the shortest distance through the body from edge of shell to edge of shell directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines).

Dungeness crab may be caught using hoop nets, crab traps, crab loop traps (crab snares) or skin and scuba divers may take them by the use of the hands only.Crab trap buoys must display the owner’s “GO ID” number as assigned by the Automated License Data System and the trap must contain at least one destruct device. When using another person’s trap, written permission, including permission transmitted electronically (i.e. email or text), from the owner of the trap must contain the GO ID number that matches the GO ID on the buoy and must be in the operator’s possession in order to operate the trap.

Minimizing the risk of whale and turtle entanglements remains a top priority of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). CDFW recently requested the Fish and Game Commission consider regulations to reduce the risk of entanglements in recreational Dungeness crab fishing gear. The Commission’s Marine Resources Committee will discuss and consider possible management recommendations at its meeting on Nov. 5 in Sacramento.

CDFW strongly encourages anglers to follow the Best Fishing Practices Guide developed by the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group. Voluntary actions anglers can employ include keeping the line between the pot and main buoy taught and vertical, reducing the amount of vertical line at the surface, avoiding setting gear in the vicinity of whales and turtles, and marking gear consistent with regulations.

More information:

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

Commercial Rock Crab Fishery Opens from Cape Mendocino to Humboldt Bay

Following the recommendation of state health agencies, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced today that it will be opening the commercial rock crab fishery from near Cape Mendocino, Humboldt County (40° 30.00’ N. Lat.) north to the Humboldt Bay entrance at the north jetty (40° 46.15’ N. latitude), including all ocean waters of Humboldt Bay.

On Nov. 8, 2016, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham submitted an emergency rulemaking to the Office of Administrative Law to close the commercial rock crab fishery north of Pigeon Point, San Mateo County upon the recommendation of the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). Since that time, portions of the fishery were sequentially reopened by the director in consultation with OEHHA under new authority granted by Fish and Game Code Section 5523. The commercial fishery was last modified in April 2018, when the fishery was opened between the Sonoma/Mendocino County line and the Mendocino/Humboldt County line.

The commercial rock crab fishery remains closed in all waters from the Mendocino/Humboldt County line (40° 00.00’ N. Lat.) to 40° 30.00’ N. Lat. (near Cape Mendocino, Humboldt County) and from the north jetty of the Humboldt Bay entrance (40° 46.15’ N. Lat.) to the California/Oregon border (42° 00.00’ N. Lat.). This closure shall remain in effect until the director of OEHHA, in consultation with the director of California Department of Public Health (CDPH), determines that domoic acid levels no longer pose a significant risk to public health and recommends the fishery be opened. CDFW will continue to coordinate with fishermen, CDPH, and OEHHA to test domoic acid levels in rock crab within the closured area.

State and federal laws prohibit the commercial distribution of seafood products that contain domoic acid levels above the federal action level of 30 parts per million in the viscera. The recreational fishery for rock crab remains open statewide with a warning from CDPH to avoid consuming the viscera of crab caught between the Mendocino/Humboldt County line and Cape Mendocino, Humboldt County and from the north jetty of the Humboldt Bay entrance to the California/Oregon border.

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 (5/23/2019)
CDFW Director’s Opener Declaration (5/23/2019)
www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories
www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab

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