SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Bay Area crab connoisseurs will have to wait until next month for a taste of Dungeness crab, as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has once again pushed back the start date of the commercial season.
The commercial Dungeness crab fishery south of the Mendocino/Sonoma County line was set to open on Friday. However, it will now open on Dec. 15 in order to minimize the risk of whales getting entangled in ropes connected to crab traps.
The new date comes after an aerial survey on Monday conducted by the CDFW, the Greater Farallones and Monterey Bay national marine sanctuaries, which found concentrations of whales near Point Reyes and Half Moon Bay.
According to CDFW officials, another aerial survey will be conducted ahead of the new start date to again evaluate whale presence in the area and determine if there’s any further risk to marine life.
The commercial Dungeness crab season was originally set to start last Friday but earlier this month the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the start date would be moved by a week out of fear that whales and sea turtles might be harmed.
Whales getting entangled in crab lines have been a major problem in recent years, officials with the Center for Biological Diversity said.
Vertical ropes connected to heavy commercial crab traps can cut into the flesh of whales, injuring them and possibly causing them to drown, center officials said.
“California officials made the right call based on the presence of humpback whales and their promise to protect these whales from deadly entanglements,” Kristen Monsell, the legal director of the centers’ oceans program, said in a statement.
“Simply put, it just didn’t make sense to allow thousands of crab lines to be dropped into the water where there are so many whales in the area. Thanksgiving crab feasts shouldn’t come with a side of dead whales,” she said.
Back in August, a whale that got entangled in commercial Dungeness crab gear near Santa Cruz Island died. A humpback whale recently washed up on a Humboldt County beach, injured from being entangled. That whale had to be euthanized in October.
In 2017, the center sued the CDFW, alleging it failed to prevent whales and sea turtles from getting entangled, resulting in deaths. The suit, however, is on hold after the CDFW agreed to end crab season three months earlier to help protect whales that migrate in the spring each year.
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