Fishing Zone 4 (Pigeon Point to Lopez Point) opened for recreational Dungeness crab trap fishing under a Fleet Advisory beginning at 9 a.m. on Dec. 10, 2021. The commercial fishery will open in Zone 4 under a Fleet Advisory and Depth Constraint at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 16, 2021, following a pre-soak period that began at 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2021. Commercial fishing activity will be limited to depths of 40 fathoms and shallower across Zone 4 and be required to have an electronic monitoring system onboard. Take is prohibited seaward of 40 fathoms (240 feet) depth contour as defined in federal regulation (50 CFR 660, subpart C). The commercial fishery will continue to be delayed in Fishing Zone 3, from the Sonoma/Mendocino county line to Pigeon Point, due to the presence of high numbers of humpback whales in the Gulf of the Farallones. The temporary crab trap restriction for the recreational fishery will also remain in place in Zone 3 until it can be evaluated at the next risk assessment, currently expected to occur on or around Dec. 15, 2021. The recreational use of crab traps is permitted in all other zones (except crab traps may not be used south of Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County (see CCR Title 14, section 29.80(e)).
“We are pleased to announce the opening of Zone 4, allowing additional commercial and recreational crabbing opportunity,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Fishing Zones 1, 2, 5 and 6 are now open and fresh Dungeness crab have been arriving at local markets and onto the plates of eager crab loving Californians. Successful crabbing for the recreational fishery is also continuing in those zones.”
Available data indicate whales remain in Zone 3, particularly in an area extending from waters off Pigeon Point out to the Farallon Islands. Use of traps presents an elevated risk of entanglement to humpback whales foraging in this area. When data indicate more whales have migrated to winter breeding grounds, CDFW stands ready to open the commercial season and lift the temporary recreational trap restriction in Zone 3. Director Bonham will reassess entanglement risk in Zone 3 on Dec. 15 based on additional surveys, and weather permitting, they will provide the data necessary to reassess whale presence.
Director Bonham is also continuing a Fleet Advisory for all opened fishing zones that reminds both the commercial and recreational fisheries to implement best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide.
New this season is the addition of entanglement risk delays to the fair start provision described under Fish and Game Code section 8279.1. This provision prohibits a person from taking, possessing onboard or landing crab for commercial purposes from a vessel in an area previously delayed due to marine life entanglement risk, human health risk (e.g. domoic acid), or poor crab quality for a period of 30 days from the date of the opening if that vessel previously participated in other commercial Dungeness crab fishing areas (including those in Oregon and Washington) during the same season.
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 www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab including FAQs for the new recreational crab trap regulations.