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 Section8276.1(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, 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 its industry partners to maximize their ability to safely deliver fresh, sustainably caught seafood during the COVID-19 crisis. The recent decision provides additional time on the water while balancing the need to protect whales and turtles. Further, CDFW 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, they 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, visit: www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab.