The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) completed the most recent marine life entanglement risk assessment under the Risk Assessment Mitigation Program (RAMP) earlier this month. Recent survey data indicate Humpback whales have begun to return from their winter breeding grounds to northern California fishing grounds. Humpback and Blue whales have also been sighted further offshore in central California but primarily outside the fishing grounds. As a result, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham has issued a depth constraint of 30 fathoms for Fishing Zones 1 and 2 (Oregon state line to the Sonoma/Mendocino county line). Constraining the fishery to fishing grounds shoreward of 30 fathoms will help minimize entanglement risk in Fishing Zones 1 and 2.
As of May 10, 2021, from the Oregon state line to the Sonoma/Mendocino county line, commercial Dungeness crab fishing will only be allowed in ocean waters 30 fathoms and shallower. All vessels must also carry onboard an electronic monitoring system capable of recording the vessel’s location while engaged in fishing activity using GPS coordinates at a frequency of no less than once per minute during fishing operations. Electronic monitoring data must be made available to CDFW upon request for the duration of the fishing period and 60 days thereafter. This management action would remain in place until lifted by the CDFW Director or the season closes. If operators have questions about the electronic monitoring requirement, contact CDFW at email@example.com.
The CDFW Director will also maintain a statewide Fleet Advisory for the commercial Dungeness crab fishery for all Fishing Zones. Under the advisory, CDFW encourages the fleet to implement fishing best practices (e.g. minimizing knots, line scope) and to immediately remove all gear from ocean waters when an operator no longer intends to fish. Vessels fishing in Zones 1-4 should pay particular attention to the location of set gear and foraging whales and minimize entanglement risk by adhering to the Best Practices Guide. The fleet should be vigilant and move or avoid setting gear in areas where whales are transiting or foraging, particularly in areas around Reading Rock north of Trinidad.
CDFW will continue to monitor all available data until the next risk assessment is completed. The fleet should be prepared to implement a change in management action which may include a Zone closure(s) in the coming weeks for all California waters.
For more information related to the risk assessment process, visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page or for more information on the Dungeness crab fishery, visit wildlife.ca.gov/crab.