San Francisco Chronicle

Dun­geness crab sea­son now pushed to Dec. 16

- By Tara Dug­gan

Dun­geness crab sea­son is de­layed yet again. On Tues­day, the state an­nounced that the com­mer­cial crab fish­ing sea­son from Point Arena in Men­do­cino County to the Mex­i­can bor­der would be pushed back a sec­ond time, to Dec. 16, to pre­vent en­dan­gered whales from get­ting en­tan­gled and in­jured in fish­ing gear.

The state had al­ready de­layed the open­ing of the sea­son from Nov. 15 to Dec. 1 for the same rea­son, dis­ap­point­ing Bay Area seafood lovers, who tra­di­tion­ally like to have Dun­geness crab on Thanks­giv­ing, and the lo­cal crab fish­ing fleet, which makes most of its in­come from the busy Thanks­giv­ing and hol­i­day sea­son. Be­cause of new rules es­tab­lished this month, the state has the author­ity to close cer­tain fish­ing ar­eas when there is ev­i­dence of a cer­tain num­ber of hump­back whales, blue whales or Pa­cific leatherbac­k sea tur­tles in crab fish­ing ar­eas.

Re­cent ae­rial sur­veys have shown that there are still whales in fish­ing grounds, Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Fish and Wildlife Director Charl­ton H. Bon­ham said in a state­ment an­nounc­ing the lat­est de­lay. The state also re­cently an­nounced it would de­lay the Dun­geness crab sea­son in the north­ern re­gion, from Men­do­cino County north to Del Norte County, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 16, but the rea­son was dif­fer­ent: Crabs in that area failed meat qual­ity tests, or ba­si­cally didn’t grow meaty enough to catch.

“Our hope is both qual­ity test­ing and ad­di­tional marine life sur­vey data will sup­port a uni­fied statewide opener on Dec. 16, just in time to have crab for the hol­i­days and New Year,” Bon­ham said in the state­ment.

The marine an­i­mals be­gan stay­ing in fish­ing zones more of­ten start­ing with the marine heat wave, some­times known as “the blob,” that be­gan in 2014, and started get­ting en­tan­gled in the lines that con­nect crab pots to buoys at the ocean’s sur­face. That led to a law­suit from the an Oak­land en­vi­ron­men­tal

group Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Diver­sity in 2017, which caused the state to take stronger ac­tion to pre­vent the in­juries.

In a re­cent state­ment, the Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Diver­sity said it wel­comed new pro­tec­tions for en­dan­gered marine mam­mals but said the state should do still more to pre­vent their in­juries and deaths.

Though en­tan­gle­ments have de­creased in re­cent years, last year the sea­son was de­layed for sim­i­lar rea­sons un­til Dec. 15.

Larry Collins of the San Fran­cisco Com­mu­nity Fish­ing As­so­ci­a­tion ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with the con­tin­ued de­lays, while ac­knowl­edg­ing the need to pre­vent en­tan­gle­ments, which he

“This fleet needs to catch a break. We’re not get­ting it from our state Leg­is­la­ture, that’s for sure.”

Larry Collins, San Fran­cisco Com­mu­nity Fish­ing As­so­ci­a­tion

said the fleet has worked hard to do.

“We’ve been fish­ing along­side the whales for 100 years and the only time we had a prob­lem was when we had ‘the blob’ here,” he said. “This fleet needs to catch a break. We’re not get­ting it from our state Leg­is­la­ture, that’s for sure.”

The depart­ment said it would do more fly­over sur­veys to check on the pres­ence of whales in

early De­cem­ber and then will an­nounce whether fish­ing can in­deed start Dec. 16.

 ?? Liz Hafalia / The Chron­i­cle ?? Crab nets sit un­used at Pier 45 at Fish­er­man’s Wharf in early Novem­ber. The open­ing of the com­mer­cial Dun­geness crab sea­son has now been pushed back twice to pro­tect whales and sea tur­tles.
Liz Hafalia / The Chron­i­cle Crab nets sit un­used at Pier 45 at Fish­er­man’s Wharf in early Novem­ber. The open­ing of the com­mer­cial Dun­geness crab sea­son has now been pushed back twice to pro­tect whales and sea tur­tles.
 ?? Jessica Chris­tian / The Chron­i­cle 2019 ?? Lan­don Car­pen­ter with the boat Ken­dra Jean loads crab traps for the open­ing of the 2019 crab sea­son.
Jessica Chris­tian / The Chron­i­cle 2019 Lan­don Car­pen­ter with the boat Ken­dra Jean loads crab traps for the open­ing of the 2019 crab sea­son.

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