The following is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:
CDFW Opens Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery in the Central Management Area Under Trap Reduction and Lifts Recreational Crab Trap Restriction
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will open the commercial Dungeness crab fishery from the Sonoma/Mendocino county line to the U.S./Mexico border (Central Management Area: Fishing Zones 3-6) under a 50 percent trap reduction beginning Jan. 18, 2024, at 12:01 a.m. with a 64-hour pre-soak to begin on Jan. 15, 2024, at 8 a.m. This management decision is a balanced approach that achieves two outcomes. First, this trap reduction will help reduce entanglement risk for humpback whales by reducing the amount of gear and vertical lines in the water. Second, the decision gets the commercial fishery open statewide.
This management decision includes exhaustive coordination with affected fishers, businesses and environmental organizations. CDFW reached this decision after seeking feedback and input from the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, during a meeting on Jan. 10, 2024. The working group expressed broad support for this management decision.
Any commercial Dungeness crab vessel fishing in or transiting Fishing Zones 3-6, regardless of fishing location is subject to the 50 percent reduction. Additionally, they must have at least 50 percent of their valid buoy tags for the current fishing season onboard and available for inspection by CDFW at all times. Commercial Dungeness crab vessels operating in Fishing Zones 3-6 must understand and comply with the restrictions by reviewing the CDFW Declaration, which includes additional information about this gear reduction. The commercial fishery north of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line (Fishing Zones 1 and 2) opened on Jan. 5, 2024, under a fleet advisory and is not subject to any trap reductions.
CDFW is also lifting the temporary recreational crab trap restriction, beginning Jan. 12, 2024, at 8 a.m., from the Sonoma/Mendocino county line to Lopez Point, Monterey County (Fishing Zones 3 and 4). A fleet advisory remains in effect for both the commercial and recreational fishery for all Fishing Zones (1-6).
“This has been an extremely challenging year for California’s commercial fishing industry,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Today’s action in the Central Management Area strikes a balance. It protects whales and turtles, and it gets people on the water allowing our hardworking commercial fishing fleet to provide fresh sustainable crab to California residents.”
CDFW encourages both the commercial and recreational crab fisheries to implement best practices, as described in the Best Practices Guide and avoid setting any fishing gear in areas were whales or sea turtles are present. In addition, the commercial fishery is encouraged to remain vigilant for lost or abandoned gear throughout the fishing season. Permitted commercial Dungeness crab vessels are allowed to retrieve up to six derelict commercial Dungeness crab traps per fishing trip pursuant to Section 132.2, Title 14, California Code of Regulations. Derelict fishing gear may also be reported through CalTIP.