California’s fish and wildlife managers announced late Friday that the commercial Dungeness crab fishing season will open Dec. 23 following a few weeks of delay due to concerns that migrating whales might get tangled in fishing lines and low crab hauls in some areas.
The state Fish and Wildlife Department said recent aerial surveys indicate most whales have started their annual migration out of California waters to their winter breeding ground.
“Whale entanglement risk still exists, but it is low,” the department said in a statement.
The department had suggested opening the season on Dec. 16 but after reviewing scientific data and consulting with the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, which includes members of the commercial crab fleet, environmental organizations and other agencies, decided on a seven-day delay, It will give crabbers more time to get their gear in the water and for the remaining whales in the area to migrate.
“We support any additional measures the fleet or specific ports wish to take to minimize entanglements and also understand the additional hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.
Since 2015, all but one commercial Dungeness season has been delayed either due to domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin that contaminates shellfish, detected in the crabs or fishing line danger to whales, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Domoic acid isn’t likely to create a problem during the 2020-21 season, Bonham said last month.