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CA's already shortened commercial Dungeness crab season will end early to protect whales

Autor: ABC7 San Francisco

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Friday, March 29, 2024 7:08PM

CA's commercial Dungeness crab season will end early to protect whales

The commercial Dungeness crab season in California will be curtailed to protect humpback whales from becoming entangled in trap and buoy lines.

SAN FRANCISCO — The commercial Dungeness crab season in California will be curtailed to protect humpback whales from becoming entangled in trap and buoy lines, officials announced Thursday.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife said commercial crabbing will end April 8 for waters between the Mendocino-Sonoma county line and the border with Mexico.

PREVIOUS: Dungeness crab season is now officially open in San Francisco

Dungeness crab season is now officially open in San Francisco after being delayed for weeks due to whales off the coast.

The recreational take of Dungeness crab using traps in those areas will also be prohibited. Recreational crabbers will be able to use other methods, including hoop nets and crab snares.

North of the Mendocino-Sonoma county line to the Oregon border, commercial crabbing will only be permitted to a depth of 180 feet (55 meters), officials said.

MORE: Poachers taking Uber to steal Dungeness crabs from secluded Bay Area beaches

“Aerial and vessel surveys conducted in mid-March show humpback whale numbers are increasing as they return to forage off the coast of California, elevating entanglement risk,” the department said in a statement.

The situation will be reassessed in mid-April.

The commercial crab industry is one of California’s major fisheries. For the past six years there have been delays and prohibitions for the crabbing season, which traditionally begins in mid-November, because of the potential risk to whales.

VIDEO: Marine heat wave deadly for starving humpback whales, study says

A new study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal estimates that some 7,000 humpbacks may have starved to death in the Northern Pacific.

Humpback whales can get caught in the vertical ropes connected to heavy commercial traps, which they can drag around for months, leaving them injured, starved or so exhausted that they can drown.

Humpback whales migrate north annually from Mexico’s Baja California peninsula where they birth calves. In spring, summer and fall the humpbacks feed on anchovies, sardines and krill off the California coast before heading back south.

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