MENDOCINO Co., 11/16/19 — The opening of the commercial Dungeness crab season in Mendocino, Humboldt counties has been postponed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) until at least December 15 due to poor results from recent quality tests conducted by the agency. The tests will be preformed anew around December 1 to re-evaluate the season’s opening date. Domoic acid warnings have also affected the recreational Dungeness season and recreational shellfish season this fall along Mendocino’s coast.
The State Senator Mike McGuire, who represents most of the North Coast including Mendocino, will be holding a hearing concerning Dungeness crab and the state of California’s fisheries this coming Tuesday, November 19 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the California Capitol entitled “State of the 2019-20 Dungeness Crab Season and Putting Fish Friendly Highways in the Fast Lane.” The hearing will be live-streamed at www.senate.ca.gov. McGuire is the chair of the California Legislature’s Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, and the hearing will focus on both Dungeness crab and the fish passages across our state.
Crab meat quality tests will be conducted again around December 1 and will determine whether the commercial Dungeness season will open on December 16, or whether it will be delayed another 15 days — much like nautical (and scientific) Groundhog Day. The crab season cannot be delayed longer than January 15, which occurred during the previous two commercial seasons in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019.
More information from the CDFW can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab, and announcements regarding the tests results will be sent out via press release, and Dungeness Crab Task Force email listserv as well as the CDFW Domoic Acid Fishery Closure Information Line at (831) 649-2883,” which also provides information regarding any domoic acid warnings.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is providing the following important updates and information on the status of the Northern and Central commercial California Dungeness crab fisheries.
Northern Management Zone (Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9):
In a memo released today, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham delayed the northern California commercial Dungeness crab season due to poor crab meat quality test results. The delayed area in the north includes Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties (Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9).
The northern Dungeness crab fishery is delayed until 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Dec.16, 2019 pending another round of testing tentatively scheduled on or around Dec. 1. If these results indicate good quality and there is no area under an additional domoic acid delay, the fishery will open Monday, Dec. 16, and be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin 8:01 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.
Crab are evaluated to compare meat weight to total crab weight to determine whether they are ready for harvest under testing guidelines established by the Tri-State Dungeness Crab Committee in conjunction with tests done in Oregon and Washington. If results indicate poor crab quality, the CDFW director may delay the fishery under authority of Fish and Game Code, section 8276.2.
“This industry-supported quality test determines if Dungeness crab have filled out in time following their molting period,” said CDFW Environmental Scientist Christy Juhasz.
If the next round of quality tests continues to show low quality crab, Director Bonham has the authority to delay the season an additional 15 days until Dec. 31. The season can be delayed no later than Jan. 15, which is what happened in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons.
Central Management Zone (Fish and Game Districts 10 and south):
The Central Management Area (Sonoma County and south) was delayed seven days by declaration of the Director to avoid marine life entanglements and opens at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 22 assuming no additional delays due to domoic acid. This opening is preceded by an 18-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 6:01 a.m. on Nov. 21.
However, ocean waters between Point Reyes, Marin County, (38° 00.00’ N. latitude) and the northern boundary of Pillar Point State Marine Conservation Area in San Mateo County (37° 30.00’ N. latitude) has yet to clear for domoic acid. The opening or delay of the fishery in this area will be announced prior to 6 p.m. on Nov. 20. If the scheduled opener in this area is declared delayed, the fleet will be informed when the area is cleared of domoic acid and, pursuant to Fish and Game Code, section 5523, will be given a 72-hour notice before pre-soak is to commence.
The fleet will be notified via press release and the Dungeness Crab Task Force email listserv as well as the CDFW Domoic Acid Fishery Closure Information Line at (831) 649-2883. All individuals planning to fish in this area are strongly encouraged to check these sources in order to confirm the opening time prior to setting their gear in this area.
For more information on health advisories related to fisheries, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/health-advisories.
Here’s the full announcement from McGuire’s office:
Sacramento, CA – Senator Mike McGuire, Chair of the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture (JCFA), and Assemblymember Mark Stone, Vice Chair, are hosting an important hearing next week on two critical topics: the upcoming Dungeness crab season and how fish passage barriers on our state highways are impacting species recovery.
The hearing, titled: State of the 2019-20 Dungeness Crab Season and Putting Fish Friendly Highways in the Fast Lane will be held this coming Tuesday, November 19 from 9 a.m. to noon at the State Capitol in Room 112.
“The past five years have been some of the most challenging on record for crab fishermen up and down the coast,” Senator McGuire said. “While we’re hoping for the best this year, the hearing will be focused on any challenges that may lie ahead including ocean heating, domoic acid levels, potential marine life entanglements as well as remaining concerns about crab size and weight. We hope folks will join us for a comprehensive overview of this top tier fishery.”
The first portion of the hearing will focus on the upcoming Dungeness crab season and any potential impacts that may be on the horizon and when consumers can expect to have crab on the holiday dinner table. Experts from across the west will focus on ocean heating, domoic acid levels, Crab quality tests, risk of whale and marine life entanglements and the recent declaration to delay the season opener. The JCFA will also hear testimony from fisheries leaders about their perspectives and concerns regarding the Dungeness crab fishery.
The Committee will also do a deep dive on fish passage barriers that currently exist on our state highways and the urgent need to protect and restore California’s native fisheries in the face of a changing climate. Testimony will address the problem created by fish passage barriers and the urgent need for fish to access headwater habitats.
“California’s endangered fish populations are on the brink, especially in the face of a changing climate,” Senator McGuire said. “There’s a lot this state can do to help the recovery of endangered fish species, and one of the most critical steps we can take is to remove the thousands of fish migration barriers that exist due to our state highway system. We look forward to the collaborative discussion on Tuesday and developing a long term plan to implement fish friendly highways.”