The Dungeness crab season in California has been pushed from November 15 to at least December 1, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Friday. Officials made the call to protect humpback whales seen in the Bay Area throughout October.
“Large aggregations of humpback whales continue to feed between Bodega Bay and Monterey and allowing the use of crab traps will increase the risk of entanglement in those fishing areas,” Charlton H. Bonham, the director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a statement to Chronicle.
Scientists believe that humpbacks’ migration patterns have changed in part due to climate change. Warming waters draw whale prey closer to shore, with a pod of humpbacks soon following. When crab fishermen operate in the same area, whales can become entangled in their equipment, especially in fishing lines that run from crab pots on the sea floor to buoys on the surface of the water.
From 2014 to 2022, commercial Dungeness crab fishing in California will be responsible for 28 percent of all humpback entanglements on the state’s coast, according to a Bay Nature report cited by Eater SF. The practice also led to 23 percent of all accidents involving humpbacks during the same period.
California’s Dungeness crab season was also delayed last year: Commercial crab fishing began Dec. 31 with a 50 percent ban on commercial trapping, Eater said. That ban was lifted on January 15. This year, officials will reassess the conditions on November 17 to see if another delay is necessary.
While commercial crab fishing has been halted, sport crab fishing will be allowed to begin on November 4. In some regions, crab pots will be banned, but hoop nets and crab snares will be allowed. After the November 17 follow-up, recreational fishermen will also be notified if they can use crab traps.
Until then, those in the industry might be feeling a little silly—and we don’t mean that in a good way.