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.

Help Protect Steelhead Trout: Clean, Drain and Dry Fishing Gear to Prevent Spread of New Zealand Mudsnails

With the December 1st opening of steelhead trout fishing in coastal counties south of San Francisco, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds anglers that it’s critically important to clean gear after every fishing outing. This practice helps prevent the spread of New Zealand mudsnails (NZMS), tiny (3/16”) aquatic snails capable of surviving out of water in the crevasses of damp gear for weeks.

The resiliency of NZMS has enabled them to spread to aquatic environments across the globe, including Europe, Australia, North America, and Asia. To prevent further spread, anglers and others who wade or work in California waters should thoroughly clean all gear before using it in another waterbody.

“While New Zealand mudsnails have been detected in watersheds across the state, many watersheds and counties remain free of this unwanted species. Anglers and the public are key to keeping these waters free of mudsnails,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist George Neillands.

NZMS were first reported in California in 2000 in the Owens River (Inyo and Mono counties). In 2003, NZMS were discovered in northern California in Putah Creek (Yolo County) and the Mokelumne River (San Joaquin River). They have since been detected in one or more waterbodies in 27 additional counties (Alameda, Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Los Angeles, Marin, Mendocino, Merced, Monterey, Napa, Orange, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama, Ventura, and Yuba).

NZMS can survive in a variety of environments including rivers, streams, reservoirs and estuaries. They are parthenogenic live-bearers, meaning they self-reproduce. This enables a new population to begin from only one snail. NZMS have demonstrated the potential to reach high densities of up to nearly one million snails per square meter and comprising up to 95 percent of the invertebrate biomass of a river. When they reach high densities, NZMS outcompete native insects and invertebrates for space and algae, which reduces the forage available to steelhead trout. As a result, steelhead populations can decline. Once NZMS are established in a body of water, it may not be possible to eradicate them.

Here’s what you can do to prevent the spread of NZMS:

  • After leaving a body of water, inspect all gear including waders, boots and float tubes. Also inspect boats and trailers. Remove visible debris with a stiff brush and rinse on site.
  • Freeze waders and other gear overnight (for a minimum of six hours) or dry completely between use.
  • Use additional waders and boots in infested waters and store them separately.
  • Never transport live fish or other aquatic animals or plants from one waterbody to another.

For more information on NZMS visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/NZMS

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Media Contacts:

George Neillands, CDFW Region 3 Fisheries, (707) 576-2812

Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

CDFW Offers Vamos A Pescar™ Grants to Promote Fishing Among California Hispanic Communities

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting grant applications for fishing programs, classes and activities that educate and engage Hispanic communities. This grant program is part of CDFW’s ongoing angler recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) effort to increase fishing participation statewide.

To be eligible for funding, programs must be:

  • Ethnically inclusive: Events will be open to families of all races/ethnicities with bilingual Spanish-English instruction, materials and outreach.
  • Family-focused: Program will encourage participation across multiple generations and genders.
  • Metro-centric: Program will encourage focus in California metro areas.
  • Focused on multiple opportunities: Program will provide multiple opportunities for the same audience to participate in fishing activities.
  • Program should promote good stewardship toward the state’s aquatic resources and include information on angler funded (i.e. Sport Fish Restoration Act) conservation projects.

The funds are made available from the George H.W. Bush Vamos A Pescar™ Education Fund. The fund supports the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s (RBFF) Hispanic initiative, Vamos A Pescar™. To further the reach and facilitate partnerships at the local level, funds are provided for state agencies to match and sub grant to local 501(c)(3) organizations. With the help of donations from companies and organizations, this fund has continued to grow and expand nationally to keep future generations educated about the joys of fishing and boating and the importance of conservation.

Interested 501 (c)(3) organizations should review the RBFF George H.W. Bush Vamos A Pescar™  Grant Guidelines, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife blank grant agreement template and then complete both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife grant application and the RBFF George H.W. Bush Vamos A Pescar™  application. Completed application packets containing both applications should be sent via email to jennifer.benedet@wildlife.ca.gov no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019.

Proposals will be ranked by CDFW staff and submitted to RBFF for review by their advisory board. The advisory board will choose the final grant recipients by Jan. 17, 2020 and CDFW will notify recipients soon thereafter. Final decisions on the program are subject to the availability of state matching funds.

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Media Contact:
Jen Benedet, CDFW R3 Program, (916) 903-9270

US Navy veteran angler on the Trinity River

CDFW Offers Special Opportunities and Reduced-Fee Licenses for Disabled Veterans and Recovering Service Members

Service-related injuries need not keep veterans from enjoying wildlife and the great outdoors. America’s disabled and recovering veterans get a break on the price of sport fishing and hunting licenses and are provided some special opportunities in California.

Reduced-fee sport fishing and hunting licenses are available to both resident and nonresident disabled veterans. Any honorably discharged, disabled veteran with a 50 percent or greater service-connected disability who wants to hunt or fish in California is eligible. The 2019 Disabled Veteran Sport Fishing License and Disabled Veteran Hunting License cost only $7.47 when purchased at CDFW license counters, or $7.82 when purchased from an authorized license agent.

Hunters and anglers may apply for reduced-fee disabled veteran licenses by mail or in person at any CDFW license sales office, or submit the required documentation to the CDFW License and Revenue Branch to prequalify for disabled veteran licenses. After an applicant receives notification from CDFW that their customer record has been updated, they will be able to purchase low-cost disabled veteran sport fishing and hunting license anywhere licenses are sold.

Reduced-fee hunting and fishing licenses are available at the same prices for recovering service members, defined as a member of the National Guard, or a Reserve, who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy and is in an outpatient status while recovering from a serious injury or illness related to the member’s military service.

Details on how to apply for these licenses can be found on CDFW’s website.

Special hunting blinds have been constructed to be accessible to individuals with mobility impairments at some state wildlife areas and national wildlife refuges. More information, including a list of areas with waterfowl hunting opportunities for mobility impaired hunters is available on the CDFW’s website.

CDFW will attempt to accommodate any qualified hunter with a disability, but they must have drawn a tag or reservation for that hunt. Hunters with a disability who are drawn for a hunt should contact the hunt coordinator directly so that CDFW staff can accommodate them for that hunt or find them another opportunity. If you have additional questions or requests regarding accessibility, please contact CDFW’s EEO Office at (916) 651-9315 or (916) 653-9089.

CDFW also works with military installations on wildlife management and provides tags for those installations to issue to military personnel for deer and tule elk hunting opportunities.

Reduced-fee sport fishing license applications for 2020 will be available on Nov. 15. California sport fishing licenses are valid Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 each year, and make excellent holiday gifts for veterans. Hunting licenses are valid July 1 through June 30. Additional validations tags, and cards are required for certain species and areas and must be purchased at the regular fee.

Fishing and hunting regulations and more information about licenses are available on the CDFW website.

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Media Contact:
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

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