After a particularly hard start to the season, commercial Dungeness crab fisheries closed several weeks early on June 1. June 7 marks the start of the Lost and Abandoned Gear Program, which incentivizes retrieving and turning in leftover fishing gear.
Both the closure and the gear removal program aim to protect migrating humpback whales and other marine life from getting tangled in fishing equipment.
The Center for Biological Diversity sued the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) after a fishing season with 71 whale entanglements in 2016. New regulations imposed after the settlement allow officials to shut down the season when the risk of whale or leatherback sea turtle entanglements is high.
This year’s season began over a month late. Extremely low catch numbers further challenged fishermen. The new closure shortens the season by four weeks on the Central Coast and six weeks in Northern California.
“It has been a very difficult year for many in our fishing communities, and I recognize that every day of lost fishing further impacts families and small businesses,” said CDFW Director Charlton Bonham. “I acknowledge the sacrifices and resilience of California’s fishermen and women and look forward to continuing to work with the fleet and the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group to minimize entanglement risk while maximizing opportunities.”