July 2020 California Department of Fish and Wildlife Calendar

All calendar items are subject to change as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Various Days — Sign Up for Environmental Response to Oil Spills (EROS) Course. This free three-day course will be held October 13-15, 2020 at the Granite Bay Activity Center in Granite Bay. It is provided to new oil spill responders and consists of demonstrations, lectures by experienced response personnel, case studies and interactive field trips. Applications are due Aug. 1. For more information and to register, please contact Lea Gibson at (916) 215-5581 or lea.gibson@wildlife.ca.gov. Please include your name, contact information and oil spill response role.

1 — Recreational Chinook Salmon Season to Open on Portions of Klamath and Trinity Rivers. Emergency fishing regulations for the spring Chinook salmon fishery in the Klamath River Basin have been extended. The spring Chinook salmon fishery on the lower Klamath River (downstream of the Highway 96 bridge at Weitchpec) and Trinity River (upstream of the confluence of the South Fork Trinity River) will open July 1 and run through Aug. 14 on the Klamath River and through Aug. 31 on the Trinity River. The daily bag limit has been set to one Chinook salmon (no size restrictions), and the possession limit set at two Chinook salmon. Please see the 2020-2021 California Freshwater Sportfishing Regulations and 2020-2021 California Supplement Sport Fishing Regulations for more information.

1 — General Season for Rabbits and Varying Hare Opens Statewide (Extending through Jan. 31, 2021). For more information on small game seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/small-game.

1 — Dungeness Crab Sport Fishing Season Closed in the San Francisco and Central Management Areas (South of Mendocino County). For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/crabs.

4 — Free Fishing Day. One of two Free Fishing Days being offered by CDFW in 2020 is scheduled July 4 (the other is Sept. 5). While all fishing regulations – such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures – remain in effect, anyone can fish without purchasing a fishing license on Free Fishing Days. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/free-fishing-days.

4 — Weaving Yesterday’s History Series Virtual Event, 1 to 1:30 p.m. Reserve naturalists and historians will host a Facebook Live series exploring the cultural heritage of Elkhorn Slough. Held on the first Saturday of every month, each event features the backstory on a different location around the slough. Please visit www.elkhornslough.org/events/weaving-yesterdays-a-live-history-series to view the series’ schedule and find recordings of previous installments.

9 — California Wildlife Conservation Board Stream Flow Enhancement Program Proposal Solicitation Notice Opens. Program priorities include enhancing flow in streams that support anadromous fish, supporting special status species and providing resilience to climate change. Please visit wcb.ca.gov/programs/stream-flow-enhancement for more information.

16 — Recreational Chinook Salmon Season to Open in Central Valley. The season will open on portions of the American, Feather, Mokelumne and Sacramento rivers. For full information on open waters and limits, please see the 2020-2021 California Freshwater Sportfishing Regulations and 2020-2021 California Supplement Sport Fishing Regulations. The season will open on the Sacramento River from the Deschutes Road bridge to the Red Bluff Diversion Dam on Aug. 1.

24 — Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Access Permit Application Deadline for Elk Hunting Opportunities. An $11.50 non-refundable application fee (plus handling fees) is charged for each hunt choice. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/share.

29 — California Fish and Game Commission Marine Resources Committee Meeting, time to be determined. This meeting was originally planned to take place in San Clemente but is expected to be held via webinar/teleconference due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. For more information, please visit fgc.ca.gov.

30 — Last Day of Dungeness Crab Sport Fishing Season in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/crabs.

31 — California Wildlife Conservation Board Lower American River Conservancy Program 2020 Proposal Solicitation Notice Closes, 5 p.m. Please visit wcb.ca.gov/programs/lower-american-river for more information.

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Media Contact:
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 817-0434

CDFW Director to Allow Commercial Dungeness Crab Season South of Sonoma/Mendocino County Line to Continue Until May 15, Then Close to Protect Whales

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham has issued a declaration closing the California Dungeness crab fishery south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line (Districts 10, 17, 18 and 19) on May 15 at 11:59 p.m. to protect whales and sea turtles from entanglement in fishing gear. 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 commercial crab fishing poses a significant risk of marine life entanglement. Before taking this action, the Director considered all recommendations and information provided within the public notice period that ended at 5:30 p.m. on April 17.

Effective May 15, at 11:59 p.m. no vessel may deploy commercial Dungeness crab fishing gear, take or possess crab in Districts 10, 17, 18 or 19 due to significant risk of marine life entanglement. The closure will remain in place for the remainder of the 2019-’20 California commercial Dungeness crab season.

CDFW will engage regularly with the California 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 in the Northern Management Area (Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9). For more information related to the risk assessment process or this closure, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page.

CDFW understands the challenges faced by California’s commercial fishing industry during these difficult times. CDFW is committed to working with our industry partners to maximize their ability to safely deliver fresh, sustainably caught seafood during the COVID-19 crisis. Today’s decision provides additional time on the water while balancing the need to protect whales and turtles. Further, we will continue to explore options to assist commercial fishermen regarding federal funds earmarked for fisheries and aquaculture in the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act. Finally, we encourage local ports and harbors to maintain continuity of commercial fisheries and sales of fish in a manner consistent with the health and safety guidelines issued by the California Department of Public Health and local public health officials.

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

Salmon Seasons Adopted for the California Coast

While the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a delay to the April season along the California coast, salmon anglers can look forward to robust seasons ahead. On April 10, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) recommended the following 2020 season dates for the state’s four management areas:

  • In the Klamath Management Zone, which is the area between the Oregon/California state line and Horse Mountain (40°05’00” N. latitude), the season is expected to open June 6 and continue through Aug. 9.
  • The Fort Bragg and San Francisco areas, which extend from Horse Mountain to Point Arena (38°57’30” N. latitude) and Point Arena to Pigeon Point (37°11’00” N. latitude), respectively, are expected to open on May 1 and continue through Nov. 8.
  • The Monterey area, between Pigeon Point and the U.S./Mexico border, is expected to open on May 1 and will continue through Oct. 4.

These seasons are the outcome of a months-long public process and reflect efforts to maximize recreational angling opportunity. They also consider the stock conservation objectives prescribed by the PFMC and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for 2020. Most notably, the persistent low abundance of Klamath River Fall Chinook was a concern and resulted in limited time on the water along the north coast.

In addition to the challenge that a constraining stock introduces into the annual season-setting process, managers and stakeholders set seasons in the face of the looming uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to many anglers hoping to access the fishery. If state or local government orders render access to the fishery impracticable when opening day arrives, the PFMC’s recommendations include a contingency provision. In the event the Monterey, San Francisco and Fort Bragg areas do not open on May 1 due to COVID-19 restrictions, an extension of the season would be allowed in the most time-constrained Klamath Management Zone.

When the season opens, the minimum size limit is 20 inches total length in all areas north of Pigeon Point, and 24 inches total length in the Monterey area. The daily bag limit is two Chinook salmon per day. No more than two daily bag limits may be possessed when on land. On a vessel in ocean waters, no person shall possess or bring ashore more than one daily bag limit. Retention of coho salmon (also known as silver salmon) is prohibited in all ocean fisheries off California.

Ocean salmon regulations in state waters automatically conform to federal regulations using the process described in the California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.95.

Public notification of any in-season change is made through the NMFS Ocean Salmon Hotline. Before engaging in any fishing activity for ocean salmon, please check one of the following resources for the most up-to-date information:

  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) website, wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon
  • NMFS Ocean Salmon Hotline, (800) 662-9825
  • CDFW Ocean Salmon Hotline, (707) 576-3429

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Media Contacts:
Pete McHugh, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2870
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

Dungeness Crab Commercial Season Update

Today, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham issued a preliminary determination that commercial Dungeness crab fishing in the Central Management Area (CMA) (Districts 10, 17 and south) poses a significant risk of marine life entanglement. The anticipated management response by Director Bonham is a May 15 closure of California Dungeness crab fishery south of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line.

On April 9, 2020 the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group (Working Group) met to review available data and provide a recommendation to the Director based on the Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program (RAMP) framework. A majority of the Working Group members determined all four RAMP factors remain low relative to entanglement risk in the CMA at this moment in time in early- to mid-April, while a minority assessed risk as moderate due to the increasing numbers of Humpback whales within the fishing grounds. The Working Group reached consensus in determining low risk for the Northern Management Area (NMA) for all four RAMP factors. Based on this assessment of risk, a majority of the Working Group did not recommend any additional mandatory management measures at this time for either the CMA or NMA. A minority recommended a precautionary management approach in the CMA.

Neither the majority nor minority recommendations dispute that whales are currently in their annual migration up the California coast, and that it is a matter of time before larger congregations are likely in the commercial crab fishing areas.

Based on independent analysis of risk factors for marine life entanglement, CDFW has assessed the risk of entanglement in the CMA as elevated. This assessment is based on the increasing numbers of Humpback whales observed in the fishing grounds. In addition, risk will continue to increase based on historical whale and sea turtle migration patterns. During the spring and summer months Humpback whales, Blue whales and Pacific Leatherback sea turtles return to forage in areas that overlap with commercial Dungeness crab fishing.

As a result, CDFW is recommending a closure of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in the CMA on May 15, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. to help minimize risk of entanglement. It is important to clarify that CDFW is not recommending any closure between today and May 15, covering the next 30 days. During the Working Group, representatives from industry advised that they would require 30 days to remove fishing gear in a timely and safe manner, given challenges under COVID-19 and weather predictions. Targeting a May 15 end to this season allows orderly removal of gear while continued fishing opportunity would exist and anticipates closure before the presence of marine mammals increases more. This approach also allows 30 days more fishing than last year’s commercial Dungeness crab season.

This recommendation is further supported by the frequent occurrence of spring whale entanglements. Since 2013 there have been a total of 21 Humpback whale entanglements observed from March through June. All years except 2013 and 2019 recorded confirmed entanglements with commercial Dungeness crab gear during this period, noting that the season closed on April 15 in 2019.

Under the authority of Fish and Game Code section 8276.1(c)(1), the Director may restrict take of commercial Dungeness crab if the fishery is being conducted in a way that poses a significant risk of marine life entanglement. 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 prior to making a final determination.

Director Bonham will consider any recommendations or new information provided by 5:30 p.m. on Friday, April 17, 2020. Anyone with recommendations and information related to this preliminary determination should submit it to whalesafefisheries@wildlife.ca.gov by that deadline.

Despite this preliminary determination for the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in the CMA, CDFW understands the challenges faced by California’s commercial fishing industry during these difficult times. CDFW is committed to working with our industry partners to maximize their ability to safely deliver fresh, sustainably caught, seafood during the COVID-19 crisis. Further, we will continue to explore options to assist commercial fishermen regarding federal funds earmarked for fisheries and aquaculture in the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act. Finally, we encourage local ports and harbors to maintain continuity of commercial fisheries and sales of fish in a manner consistent with the health and safety guidelines issued by the California Department of Public Health and local public health officials.

For the latest information on the Dungeness crab season, please visit 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

Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery Update: Entanglement Risk Low, Fishery to Remain Open

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is providing the following important update on the status of the commercial California Dungeness crab fishery which includes the Northern Management Area (Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9) and Central Management Area (Fish and Game Districts 10 and south).

On March 25, 2020, the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group convened to review current data and conduct an updated risk assessment to evaluate the risk of marine life entanglement. The Working Group recommendation was unanimously low risk across three of the four risk factors. The risk factor of marine life concentration in the Northern Management Area was inferred low risk by majority recommendation and unknown by a minority recommendation. However, the entire Working Group agreed that no management action was necessary at this time.

Informed by this recommendation and after careful consideration of available data, the CDFW Director determined that no management action is necessary at this time; the season will remain open for both the Northern and Central Management Areas. The Director and the Working Group however encourage the fleet to continue to use Best Practices when fishing and to be ready to quickly respond to a management change at any time. Given historic migration patterns, significant numbers of whales typically return to the fishing grounds in April or May each year.

For the remainder of the commercial season, CDFW will continue to collect data to inform bi-weekly risk assessments by the Working Group. Based on that process, CDFW will likely take additional management actions in response to future risk assessments. Management action may occur at any time as conditions related to entanglement risk change. CDFW is committed to providing the fleet with as much advance notice as possible should the Director determine a management response is appropriate. For more information related to the risk assessment process, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries webpage.

CDFW would also like to acknowledge the importance of commercial fishing to maintaining and securing our food supply. Commercial fishermen are reminded of the importance of maintaining a safe physical distance of 6 feet from others when outside of their home and to be vigilant about the role they must play to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

For more information, please see CDFW’s Frequently Asked Questions regarding the 2019-2020 Dungeness crab commercial season or www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/invertebrates/crabs.

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