MENDOCINO Co, CA, 11/22/22 — A temporary restriction on recreational crab traps will be lifted for much of Mendocino County starting Nov. 28, after monitoring by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) found just three humpback whales in the area earlier this month.
Designed to prevent whale entanglement, the crab trap restriction is being lifted for the northernmost parts of California’s coastline, Zones 1 and 2. It will remain in effect for all other zones until mid-December — including Zone 3, which begins south of Point Arena. Thirty-nine humpback whales were seen in Zone 3 in aerial surveys by CDFW on Nov. 9.
“We appreciate the discussions with the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group regarding risk of entanglement,” said CDFW Director Chuck Bonham. “Ultimately, we must rely on the best available science and make management decisions based on the Risk Assessment Mitigation Program (RAMP) regulations. CDFW remains committed to providing fishing opportunity when risk of entanglement is low, which is consistent with our management approach since implementation of RAMP.”
Despite the low number of humpbacks in the Cape Mendocino zone, the commercial fishery opening in Zone 2 remains delayed until mid-December, pending further assessments. Bonham made this call based on low quality crab meat found in Northern California.
Quality is assessed using a metric called “meat recovery”: crab meat is baked, cooked, and processed; then this number is divided by the weight of crab initially collected on the boat. Results for Northern California are visible here. If upcoming quality testing indicates good quality crab meat, the fishery will open Dec.16 and be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period starting Dec. 13.
Some area fish markets can still provide Dungeness crab for the Thanksgiving table, though it’s not sourced from California. Princess Seafood Market in Fort Bragg is stocking live and just-cooked Dungeness crab caught in Puget Sound, Washington, while supplies last.
Note: Kate Fishman covers the environment & natural resources for The Mendocino Voice in partnership with a Report For America. Her position is funded by the Community Foundation of Mendocino, Report for America, & our readers. You can support Fishman’s work with a tax-deductible donation here or by emailing [email protected]. Contact her at KFishman@mendovoice.com or at (707) 234-7735. The Voice maintains editorial control and independence.