California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham has assessed entanglement risk under the Risk Assessment Mitigation Program (RAMP) and announced the closure of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in Fishing Zones 3, 4, 5 and 6 (Sonoma/Mendocino county line to the U.S./Mexico border) effective at noon on April 8, 2022. This closure is being implemented because of two recent humpback whale entanglements that occurred off San Mateo County and in Monterey Bay involving California commercial Dungeness crab fishing gear. All commercial Dungeness crab traps must be removed from the fishing grounds by the April 8 closure date. While this closure shortens the season for many fishermen, the RAMP regulations are designed to minimize risk and provide for a long-term viable fishery for all Californians. In addition, the Director has authorized the Lost and Abandoned Gear Retrieval Program to begin removing commercial Dungeness crab traps left in the water beginning April 15, 2022, at noon in Zones 3, 4, 5 and 6.
CDFW asks fishermen and mariners to be on the lookout for entangled whales and report them so that a disentanglement response team can be mobilized to remove the gear. Reports can be made to 1-877-SOS-WHALE or contact the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16. The recreational fishery in these zones remains open but may be subject to a future trap restriction when humpbacks return to forage during the spring and summer. In addition, CDFW is continuing a Fleet Advisory and reminds all in the commercial and recreational fisheries to implement best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide.
“The past few seasons have been difficult for fishing families, communities and businesses, but it is imperative that we strike the right balance between protecting humpback whales and providing fishing opportunity,” said Director Bonham. “The fleet has done an impressive job helping CDFW manage risk of entanglement in the commercial fishery, including starting to remove fishing gear when the entanglements were first reported. This partnership helps ensure we protect future opportunities to fish and the incredible biodiversity of our ocean.”
A map of all Fishing Zones can be found on the CDFW website. For more information related to the risk assessment process, visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries webpage. For more information on the Dungeness crab fishery, visit CDFW’s Crab webpage, including FAQs for the 2021-22 commercial fishing season and FAQs for the new recreational crab trap regulations.