The celebrated Dungeness crab season in the Bay Area is now officially off to another late start — the Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Friday, October 27, that commercial Dungeness crab fishing is delayed until at least Friday, December 1. The news was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.
The commercial crab fishing season was slated to begin on Wednesday, November 15, but wildlife officials delayed it to protect migrating whales. “Large aggregations of humpback whales continue to forage between Bodega Bay and Monterey and allowing the use of crab traps would increase the risk of an entanglement in those fishing zones,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife director Charlton H. Bonham told the Chronicle in a statement.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration attributes shifting whale migration patterns to rising ocean temperatures including a marine heat wave that ran from 2014 to 2016, Bay Nature reports. Commercial Dungeness crab fishing in California is responsible for 28 percent of all humpback entanglements off the state’s coast from 2014 to 2022 and 23 percent of accidents involving humpbacks in that same period, the magazine goes on to add.
That December 1 start date isn’t set in stone, however. As in past years, the whale entanglement risks will be looked at again, and on November 17 officials will announce whether commercial fishing can begin or if another delay is necessary. As the Chronicle mentions, this is the fifth year that commercial fisheries have seen delays with the crab season — last year, commercial crab fishing began on December 31 with a 50 percent commercial trapping restriction, which was fully lifted on January 15, 2023.
Those who partake in recreational fishing, however, will be allowed to start on Saturday, November 4, in the area stretching from the Sonoma-Mendocino County line to Lopez Point in Monterey County. Recreational fishers will only be allowed to use hoop nets and crab snares, however.