This week, a legal settlement reached between state regulators, environmentalists and crab fishermen will cut the commercial fishing season for Dungeness crabs short by nearly 2 1/2 months.
The agreement was reached due to the concerns of whale populations off the North Coast, as whale entanglements in crab nets continue to plague the industry. Crab season typically runs from November 15 to June 30. This season will end on April 15, with future seasons ending on April 1.
With the spring bringing migrating whales traveling from Mexico to Alaska, the risk of entanglements becomes increasingly high. Whale populations are currently flourishing, forcing some whales to stop off in the San Francisco Bay to find food with less competition.
The deal reached will give more power to state regulators and whale watchdogs, who will keep an eye on migrations and give them the power to shut down future crab seasons if whale risks are deemed high. The deal was seen as a victory of negotiations between all parties.
“It’s been my view almost always we can do right by our natural resources and do right by Californians, and do it better together than in a courtroom,” state Fish and Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham said during a media call on the settlement.
State Senator Mike McGuire, whose districts include the lucrative crabbing North Coast region from Marin to Del Norte Counties, applauded the deal as a proactive coexistence between crabbing fleets and migrating whales.
Although many environmentalists are ecstatic, other official have warned the move could have a far-reaching economic impact on the region. The bulk of the crabbing take is in the early months of the season, but forgoing two months of crabbing could lose the industry millions of dollars per year.