Dungeness crab season in California has seen its fair share of disruptions in recent years as growing whale populations continue to be recorded off the coast. With whale sightings at an all-time near San Francisco recently, wildlife officials have decided to push back crab season until December.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that crab season will begin on December 1 instead of its original start date of November 15, citing whale and sea turtle injuries due to getting caught in fishing nets. The postponement affects fishing zones from Mendocino County all the way down to the Mexican border. The recreational fishing season will be allowed to open on Saturday.
Earlier in June, biologists stationed on the Farallon Islands counted 47 whales in just one hour, noting it was the largest concentration of marine mammals documented off the Northern California coast in 20 years. Scientists hypothesize that warming ocean temperatures have pushed whale food, like anchovies, to shallower waters, bringing them directly into the path of commercial fishermen.
“The theory is the whales don’t seem to know it’s fall yet. With the first storm, it might clue them in that it’s time to boogie south,” Mike Conroy, executive director of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, told the Chronicle.
There have been a record number of whale injuries along the California coast due to fishing activity in recent years and injuries in the early part of the season could have severe impact on the fishing community.
“If we had rushed to go fish now with the high number of whales in the area, and if we had entangled the whales, that … could have resulted in a zone closure for the entire season,” said Conroy.
Fish and Wildlife officials will reevaluate the risk of entanglement in the next two weeks to determine whether the December 1 opening date should be delayed even further.