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.

###

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

November 2020 California Department of Fish and Wildlife Calendar

All calendar items are subject to change as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Please continue to adhere to all safety protocols including physical distancing, wearing masks and frequent hand washing.

Fire danger is extreme in California currently. Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts are strongly encouraged to check for closures before leaving on any recreational trip.

Various Days — Nimbus Fish Hatchery Free Public Webinars, 9 to 9:45 a.m., Nov. 5, 12, 19 and 25 via Zoom. These free public webinars will be broadcast live from the Nimbus Fish Hatchery for all ages to enjoy from a safe social distance. Because the Visitor Center is currently closed, we are offering everyone the opportunity to connect with wildlife and our hatchery experts. Information on each webinar and a link to register (required) will be posted to our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nimbushatchery. For additional information, please contact stephanie.ambrosia@wildlife.ca.gov  or call (916) 358-2884.

Saturdays — Swan Tours, 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., Yuba County north of Marysville in privately owned rice fields. Led by CDFW naturalists, this is an excursion into a prime Pacific Flyway overwintering grounds. Tours focus on the majestic and ancient tundra swan, but participants are sure to see an assortment of geese, ducks, shorebirds and raptors. Sign up on Eventbrite. Tours have been modified to meet health and safety guidelines. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/regions/2/swan-tours or email genelle.treaster@wildlife.ca.gov.

1 — First Day of No Depth Limit for Recreational Boat-Based Groundfish Fishing, California-Oregon State Line to Point Arena (through Dec. 31). For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/regulations/groundfish-summary.

1 — General Deer Season Closes in Zones D3-D7, D17 and D19. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.  

7 — Recreational Dungeness Crab Season Opens Statewide. Health advisory information will be posted at wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/health-advisories. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/invertebrates/crabs.

7 — General Deer Season Opens in Zone D12. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.  

7 — Canada Goose Season Opens in the North Coast Special Management Area (extends through Jan. 31). For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

7 — Scaup Season Opens in the Southern San Joaquin Valley, Southern California, Colorado River and Balance of State Zones (extends through Jan. 31). For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

7 — White Goose Season Opens in the Imperial County Special Management Area (extends through Jan. 31). For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

7 — Weaving Yesterdays: A Live 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. At 1 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month, participants will hear the backstory of a new location around the area. Please visit www.elkhornslough.org/events/weaving-yesterdays-a-live-history-series to view the series schedule and find recordings of previous installments. 

7 — Teachers on the Estuary Workshop, 9 to 11:30 a.m., Elkhorn Slough Reserve, 1700 Elkhorn Road, Watsonville (95076). The reserve presents a hands-on estuarine science workshop for middle and high school teachers through a combination of virtual lessons and field work. Teachers will learn from reserve scientists, engage in inquiry-based lessons and take home new hands-on activities. For the full workshop schedule and to register, please visit www.elkhornslough.org/education-program/teacher-development.

8  Last Day of Recreational Ocean Salmon Season from Horse Mountain to Pigeon Point. Recreational ocean salmon fishing closes statewide. For more information, please visit the ocean salmon webpage at wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/regulations/salmon or call the CDFW Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (707) 576-3429 or the National Marine Fisheries Service Ocean Salmon Regulations Hotline at (800) 662-9825.

8 — General Deer Season Closes in Zones D11, D13-D15 and X9c. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.

10 — California Fish and Game Commission Marine Resources Committee Meeting, 9 a.m. The meeting is to be held via webinar/teleconference due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. For more information, please visit fgc.ca.gov/meetings/2020.

14 — Fall Wild Turkey Season Opens Statewide (extends through Dec. 13). For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

14 — General Pheasant Season Opens Statewide (extends through Dec. 27). For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

14 — Late Season Dove Hunting Opens Statewide (extends through Dec. 28). For more information on upland game bird seasons and limits, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/upland-game-birds.

15 — 2021 Sport Fishing Licenses Available. The 2021 sport fishing licenses become available at various sites. For more information or to purchase a license online, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing.

15 — Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery South of the Sonoma-Mendocino County Line (Central Management Area) Scheduled to Open. The opening date may be delayed in some or all of this area due to elevated marine life entanglement risk or human health concerns from domoic acid. Should there be a change to the season opening date due to entanglement risk, information will be made available at wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/whale-safe-fisheries and sent out through the CDFW Whale Safe Fisheries email listserv. More information on domoic acid and the crab fishery can be found at wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/invertebrates/crabs.

16 — California Fish and Game Tribal Committee Meeting, 1:30 p.m. The meeting is to be held via webinar/teleconference due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. For more information, please visit fgc.ca.gov.

18 — Brant Season Opens in the Northern Brant Special Management Area (extends through Dec. 14). For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

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

19 — Brant Season Opens in the Balance of State Brant Special Management Area (extends through Dec. 15). For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/waterfowl.

22 — General Deer Season Closes in Zone D16. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.

29 — General Deer Season Closes in Zone D12. For more information, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/deer.

###

Media Contact:
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8907

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.

###

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.

###

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

CDFW Announces Quality Delay for Commercial Dungeness Crab in Northern Fishery, and Important Updates to Pending Opening in Central Fishery

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is providing the following information and important updates on the status of the Northern and Central California commercial Dungeness crab fisheries.

Northern Management Area (Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9):

In a memo released today, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham delayed the northern California commercial Dungeness crab season due to poor crab meat quality test results. The delayed area in the north includes Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties (Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9).

The northern Dungeness crab fishery is delayed until 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019 pending another round of testing tentatively scheduled on or around Dec. 1. If these results indicate good quality and there is no area under an additional domoic acid delay, the fishery will open Monday, Dec. 16, and be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin 8:01 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.

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 in conjunction with tests done in Oregon and Washington. If results indicate poor crab quality, the CDFW director may delay the fishery under authority of Fish and Game Code, section 8276.2.

“This industry-supported quality test determines if Dungeness crab have filled out in time following their molting period,” said CDFW Environmental Scientist Christy Juhasz.

If the next round of quality testing continues to show low quality crab, Director Bonham has the authority to delay the season an additional 15 days, until Dec. 31. The season can be delayed no later than Jan. 15, which is what happened in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons.

Central Management Area (Fish and Game Districts 10 and south):

The Central Management Area (Sonoma County and south) was delayed seven days by declaration of the Director to avoid marine life entanglements and opens at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, assuming no additional delays due to domoic acid. This opening is preceded by an 18-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 6:01 a.m. on Nov. 21.

However, ocean waters between Point Reyes, Marin County (38° 00.00’ N. latitude) and the northern boundary of Pillar Point State Marine Conservation Area in San Mateo County (37° 30.00’ N. latitude) has yet to clear for domoic acid. The opening or delay of the fishery in this area will be announced prior to 6 p.m. on Nov. 20.  If the scheduled opener in this area is declared delayed, the fleet will be informed when the area is cleared of domoic acid and, pursuant to Fish and Game Code, section 5523, will be given a 72-hour notice before pre-soak is to commence.

The fleet will be notified via press release and the Dungeness Crab Task Force email listserv as well as the CDFW Domoic Acid Fishery Closure Information Line at (831) 649-2883. All individuals planning to fish in this area are strongly encouraged to check these sources in order to confirm the opening time prior to setting their gear in this area.

For more information, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab and read CDFW’s Frequently Asked Questions on the 2019-2020 Dungeness crab commercial season.

For more information on health advisories related to fisheries, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/health-advisories.

###

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