Commercial Dungeness Crab Update

The commercial Dungeness crab season in the central management area, Point Arena to the Mexico border, will continue to be delayed due to the presence of whales within fishing grounds and the potential for entanglement. The commercial Dungeness crab season in the northern management area was scheduled to open Sunday, Dec. 1, but was delayed until at least Wednesday, Dec. 16 due to low meat quality. Meat quality testing and delays are a long-standing tri-state industry supported component of the season opener to ensure high quality crab at the start of the fisheries in northern California, Oregon and Washington. In early December, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director will re-assess entanglement risk in the central management area and evaluate risk in the northern management area to inform the season opener for both areas.

CDFW in partnership with researchers, federal agencies and the fishing industry has conducted surveys from the Oregon state line to the Channel Islands to observe marine life concentrations. CDFW has conducted five aerial surveys since late October and more than 10 vessel-based surveys have been conducted by researchers and the fishing industry. Additional sources of data include observations from a network of observers spread across three national marine sanctuaries.

Based on those data sources, “CDFW, after consulting with the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, is enacting a delay in the central management area,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Available data indicates the whales still remain in the fishing grounds. This risk assessment focused on the central management area because the northern management area was already delayed due to low meat quality. CDFW staff, collaborators and partners have scheduled additional surveys in the next few weeks that, weather permitting, are anticipated to provide the data necessary to reassess whale presence. Our hope is both quality testing and additional marine life survey data will support a unified statewide opener on Dec. 16, just in time to have crab for the holidays and New Year.”

CDFW is planning additional aerial surveys for the first week of December to inform a risk assessment in advance of Dec. 16. When the data indicates the whales have migrated out of the fishing grounds, CDFW stands ready to open the commercial season.

For more information related to the risk assessment process or this delay, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page.

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

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

California Fish and Game Commission Meets

At its Oct. 14, 2020 meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from this week’s meeting.

fish and game commission logo

The Commission adopted changes to the statewide sportfishing regulations to make them more user friendly. The regulation is the culmination of years of work by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife including input from stakeholders to overhaul and simplify these regulations. This effort will result in a 52 percent increase in fishing opportunity in special regulated waters and open up significant opportunities for the remaining inland waters across the state. The regulation is expected to take effect March 1, 2021, after final approval by the Office of Administrative Law.

Recreational and commercial groundfish regulations were adopted for consistency with federal regulations.

Three new wild trout waters were designated as Trout Heritage Waters, while the designation was removed for one section of waterway.

The Commission heard from stakeholders about extending the sunset date on the current recreational red abalone closure, amending recreational take of crab regulations to provide additional whale and turtle protections in the trap fishery, and amending regulations to allow for additional recreational take of sea urchins. The items were discussions only and no action was taken today.

In a unanimous vote, the Commission determined that changing the status the Mohave Desert Tortoise from threatened to endangered under the California Endangered Species Act may be warranted.

The full commission – President Eric Sklar, Vice President Samantha Murray and Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Peter Silva – was present. President Sklar announced that former Commissioner Russell Burns recently resigned from the Commission and the seat he vacated is now open.

As a reminder, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting budget gap in California, Commission meetings through June 2021 will be held via webinar and teleconference.

The agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at fgc.ca.gov. An archived audio file will be available in coming days. The next meeting of the full Commission is scheduled for Dec. 9-10, 2020.

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The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.

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

May 2020 California Department of Fish and Wildlife Calendar

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

1 — Recreational Groundfish Season Opens for All Boat-based Anglers for the Northern and Mendocino Management Areas (Oregon-California State Line to Point Arena). Anglers are reminded to abide by all state and local health guidelines regarding non-essential travel and physical distancing. Staying home in order to stay healthy is still the best way to keep yourself and others safe. Anglers are also advised to check with local authorities on the status of harbor services and access points as many site closures and access restrictions exist and may change daily. For more information, please visit the Groundfish webpage at wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/groundfish.

1 — Recreational Pacific Halibut Fishery Opens. The fishery will be open May 1 to Oct. 31 or until the quota is reached, whichever is earlier. Anglers are reminded to abide by all state and local health guidelines regarding non-essential travel and physical distancing. Staying home in order to stay healthy is still the best way to keep yourself and others safe. Anglers are also advised to check with local authorities on the status of harbor services and access points as many site closures and access restrictions exist and may change daily. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/pacific-halibut.

1  Recreational Ocean Salmon Season Opens from Horse Mountain to U.S./Mexico border. Anglers are reminded to abide by all state and local health guidelines regarding non-essential travel and physical distancing. Staying home in order to stay healthy is still the best way to keep yourself and others safe. Anglers are also advised to check with local authorities on the status of harbor services and access points as many site closures and access restrictions exist and may change daily. For more information, please visit the Ocean Salmon web page at wildlife.ca.gov/oceansalmon or call either the CDFW Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429 or the National Marine Fisheries Service Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (800) 662-9825.

1 — Deadline for California Invasive Species Action Week’s Youth Art Contest. Youths in grades 2 to 12 can submit entries for the California Invasive Species Action Week’s Youth Art Contest. This year’s theme is “Be a Habitat Hero.” Create an original piece showing the actions a “Habitat Hero” can take to protect your community by stopping the spread of invasive species. Examples include: a poster encouraging pet owners not to release pets; a public service announcement on a particular species; a video or brochure with instructions for cleaning your boats, boots or gear. Be creative! All types of media are welcome and encouraged: drawings, paintings, animations, comic strips, videos, public service announcements or campaign posters. Entries must include a completed entry form and be received by May 1. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/cisaw.

4 — Archery Only Spring Wild Turkey and Additional Junior Spring Turkey Seasons Open (extending through May 17). For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

4 — California Wildlife Conservation Board, Wildlife Corridor and Fish Passage, Proposal Solicitation Notice (PSN) Opens. PSN priorities include projects to construct, repair, modify, or remove transportation infrastructure or water resources infrastructure to improve passage for wildlife or fish. For more information, please visit wcb.ca.gov/programs/habitat-enhancement.

7 — California Wildlife Conservation Board Final Agenda for May 20 Board Meeting Released.

7 — California Wildlife Conservation Board, Forest Conservation Program, Proposal Solicitation Notice (PSN) closes. PSN priorities include meadow restoration, post-fire habitat recovery and aspen stand restoration as well as acquisitions that protect meadows, migration corridors or habitat connectivity. For more information, please visit wcb.ca.gov/programs/forest.

9 — World Migratory Bird Day Virtual Celebration with Elkhorn Slough Reserve. Celebrate the diversity of birds migrating through Elkhorn Slough Reserve with a naturalist-led exploration, live from the Reserve Visitor Center. Explore avian-themed crafts, games and hands-on activities free to download. To find out more, visit the event calendar at www.elkhornslough.org.

11 — California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group. The California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group will hold a public meeting to provide information about their assessment of marine life entanglement risk, including any Working Group recommendations to the CDFW Director regarding the May 15 risk determination. There will not be a designated opportunity for public comment during the meeting, however feedback can be shared directly with CDFW via email to whalesafefisheries@wildlife.ca.gov. An agenda will be posted on www.opc.ca.gov/whale-entanglement-working-group. For additional details about the meeting, please contact info@cawhalegroup.com or ryan.bartling@wildlife.ca.gov.

13 — Refugio Beach Oil Spill Virtual Open House to Discuss Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan, 1 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. This online event will provide an opportunity for the public to meet with state and federal representatives from the Refugio Beach Oil Spill Trustee Council to learn more about the restoration projects and provide feedback. The draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan was released on April 22, and can be found at wildlife.ca.gov/ospr/nrda/refugio. If you are interested in attending one of the virtual open houses, please register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/5071390037067886094.  

13 — Lower American River Conservancy Program Advisory Committee Meeting, 1 p.m., via Skype or teleconference. For more information, please visit wcb.ca.gov/programs/lower-american-river.

14 — California Fish and Game Commission Teleconference, time to be determined. For more information, please visit fgc.ca.gov/Meetings/2020.

14 — California Fish and Game Commission Wildlife Resources Committee Meeting, time to be determined, teleconference/webinar only. For more information, please visit fgc.ca.gov/Meetings/2020.

15 Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery to Close South of the Sonoma/Mendocino County Line. All commercial Dungeness crab fishing gear must be removed from ocean waters south of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line by 11:59 p.m. on May 15, 2020. Additional information is available at wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/whale-safe-fisheries and wildlife.ca.gov/crab.

15 Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program Regulations Anticipated Public Comment Period. CDFW anticipates releasing proposed regulations to assess and respond to risk of marine life entanglement in the commercial Dungeness crab fishery on or around May 15, 2020. Rulemaking documents, including information about how to submit public comments and the public hearing date, will be available at wildlife.ca.gov/notices/regulations.

20 California Wildlife Conservation Board Meeting, 10 a.m., via Skype or teleconference. Public comment will be accepted per the agenda. For more information, please visit wcb.ca.gov.

26 — California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group. The California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group will hold a public meeting to provide information about their assessment of marine life entanglement risk, including any Working Group recommendations to the CDFW Director regarding the June 1 risk determination. There will not be a designated opportunity for public comment during the meeting, however feedback can be shared directly with CDFW via email to whalesafefisheries@wildlife.ca.gov. An agenda will be posted on www.opc.ca.gov/whale-entanglement-working-group. For additional details about the meeting, please contact info@cawhalegroup.com or ryan.bartling@wildlife.ca.gov.

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

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