Dungeness crab fishing season pushed back along California’s coast. It’s all about whales

Northern California residents may have to alter their holiday Dungeness crab plans after the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Friday the start of the season would be delayed in some parts of the state.

California commercial fishermen from Mendocino County’s southern border down to Mexico won’t be allowed to start catching Dungeness crabs on Nov. 15, when the season was originally supposed to start, according to a CDFW news release.

The reason? Many humpback whales continue to feed between Bodega Bay and Monterey, CDFW director Charlton H. Bonham said in the release. The migratory whales can become entangled in crab traps.

“We will continue to work with both the recreational and commercial Dungeness crab fisheries to protect whales while working to maximize fishing opportunity,” Bonham said in the release.

Recreational fishermen will similarly be banned from using crab traps between the Mendocino County line and Lopez Point in Monterey County when that amateur season opens on Nov. 4. However, they’ll still be allowed to fish using hoop nets and crab snares at that time.

Dungeness crab is a Northern California holiday staple, part of many families’ Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years traditions. Yet fresh California-caught crab’s availability is often in jeopardy due to whales’ migratory patterns, leaving people to purchase invertebrates caught in Oregon, Washington or Alaska instead — or do away with tradition for a year.

CDFW officials will next reassess the risk that commercial Dungeness crab fishing would pose on or around Nov. 17, with the possibility of opening the industry statewide by Dec. 1.

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