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California’s Dungeness crab season delayed yet again, this time until Dec. 30

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Crab lovers, it’s looking like a late — and short — Dungeness season.

California Fish and Wildlife officials on Wednesday evening announced another postponement in the commercial Dungeness crab season for the entire state coast — the third delay this season.

There are two geographically based reasons behind the decision:

From the Sonoma/Mendocino County line south to the Mexican border, a risk assessment undertaken Wednesday determined there is still a high concentration of migrating whales that could get tangled in fishing gear. It’s the fourth consecutive year of delays to protect the humpbacks.

On the far north coast, whales have moved south from Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, but state officials said testing of crabs caught in these waters showed low meat quality, hence the continued ban there.

Commercial crabbing will be delayed until Dec. 30, and possibly later. The next risk assessment is scheduled to take place on or before Dec. 22.

The continued postponement received a unanimous recommendation of the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, which is comprised of both commercial and recreational crab fishermen, scientists and conservation organizations, according to Geoff Shester of Oceana, who is a member of the group.

Traditionally, the commercial season begins Nov. 15 and the recreational season earlier than that. This year, recreational crabbing has been allowed since Nov. 5, so long as crabbers use only hoop nets and crab snares. And since Nov. 28, recreational fishing with crab traps has been allowed off the far north coast but not elsewhere.

Oceana, a conservation organization, cites figures from the NOAA Fisheries that estimate that roughly 75 percent of reported whale entanglements prove fatal because the heavy fishing gear can prevent the mammals from diving for food.

Since 2015, there have been delays in all but one commercial Dungeness season in the Bay Area. A toxin, domoic acid, that could sicken anyone who eats the tainted crab destroyed Northern California’s 2015-2016 commercial season and created delays in other years.

In 2018, the commercial season began without a hitch although recreational crabbers had to postpone their fishing.

In 2019 and 2020, the fishing line danger to whales resulted in a crabbing delay of several weeks. The 2020 crabbing season was officially set to begin Dec. 23, but price negotiations between crab fleets and seafood processors delayed the start until early January 2021.

The 2021 season was delayed two weeks for far Northern California, and got underway Dec. 1. In the Bay Area, the commercial crabbing season wasn’t allowed to start until Dec. 29. The end came earlier than usual – April 8 of this year – after two whales became entangled in crab-fishing gear, one off the San Mateo County coast and one in Monterey Bay.

According to Oceana, the state recorded three whales caught in crabbing lines earlier this year.



Crab lovers, it’s looking like a late — and short — Dungeness season.

California Fish and Wildlife officials on Wednesday evening announced another postponement in the commercial Dungeness crab season for the entire state coast — the third delay this season.

There are two geographically based reasons behind the decision:

From the Sonoma/Mendocino County line south to the Mexican border, a risk assessment undertaken Wednesday determined there is still a high concentration of migrating whales that could get tangled in fishing gear. It’s the fourth consecutive year of delays to protect the humpbacks.

On the far north coast, whales have moved south from Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, but state officials said testing of crabs caught in these waters showed low meat quality, hence the continued ban there.

Commercial crabbing will be delayed until Dec. 30, and possibly later. The next risk assessment is scheduled to take place on or before Dec. 22.

The continued postponement received a unanimous recommendation of the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, which is comprised of both commercial and recreational crab fishermen, scientists and conservation organizations, according to Geoff Shester of Oceana, who is a member of the group.

Traditionally, the commercial season begins Nov. 15 and the recreational season earlier than that. This year, recreational crabbing has been allowed since Nov. 5, so long as crabbers use only hoop nets and crab snares. And since Nov. 28, recreational fishing with crab traps has been allowed off the far north coast but not elsewhere.

Oceana, a conservation organization, cites figures from the NOAA Fisheries that estimate that roughly 75 percent of reported whale entanglements prove fatal because the heavy fishing gear can prevent the mammals from diving for food.

Since 2015, there have been delays in all but one commercial Dungeness season in the Bay Area. A toxin, domoic acid, that could sicken anyone who eats the tainted crab destroyed Northern California’s 2015-2016 commercial season and created delays in other years.

In 2018, the commercial season began without a hitch although recreational crabbers had to postpone their fishing.

In 2019 and 2020, the fishing line danger to whales resulted in a crabbing delay of several weeks. The 2020 crabbing season was officially set to begin Dec. 23, but price negotiations between crab fleets and seafood processors delayed the start until early January 2021.

The 2021 season was delayed two weeks for far Northern California, and got underway Dec. 1. In the Bay Area, the commercial crabbing season wasn’t allowed to start until Dec. 29. The end came earlier than usual – April 8 of this year – after two whales became entangled in crab-fishing gear, one off the San Mateo County coast and one in Monterey Bay.

According to Oceana, the state recorded three whales caught in crabbing lines earlier this year.

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