California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham has assessed entanglement risk under the Risk Assessment Mitigation Program (RAMP) and in accordance with regulations adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission for the recreational crab fishery. Due to increased risk of whale entanglement, Director Bonham is restricting the use of crab traps for the remainder of the recreational Dungeness crab fishing season. The season ends on July 30, 2022 in Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino counties and on June 30, 2022 in all other counties. The trap restriction becomes effective at 7 p.m. on April 24, 2022, at which point the use and deployment of recreational crab traps shall be prohibited.
This restriction is being implemented because of the unusually large number of humpback whales that have migrated back to California waters earlier than in previous years and because of several recent humpback whale entanglements involving California commercial Dungeness crab fishing gear and gear of unknown origin. This statewide trap restriction will help minimize risk of entanglement as humpback whales continue to return to forage in California waters during the spring and summer months. Recreational take of Dungeness crab by other methods, including hoop nets and crab snares, is not affected by the trap restriction.
CDFW asks recreational crab fishermen to remove their traps as soon as possible but no later than 7 p.m. on April 24, 2022, and to be on the lookout for and report any entangled whales so 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. CDFW, partnering researchers and federal agencies have conducted numerous aerial and vessel-based surveys from the California/Oregon state line to the Channel Islands in Southern California to observe marine life concentrations.
Those surveys, and other inputs including important oceanographic data, inform the RAMP. This large collaborative effort works to use the best available science to manage an important California fishery. Its primary goal is to strike a balance between minimizing entanglement risk and providing fishing opportunity and ultimately fresh Dungeness crab for California residents.
For more information related to the risk assessment process, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page. For more information on the Dungeness crab fishery, please visit CDFW’s Crab page, including FAQs for the new recreational crab trap regulations. A map of all Fishing Zones can be found on the CDFW website.