The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has announced an early closure to the Dungeness crab fishery south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line to protect whales and sea turtles from being entangled in fishing gear.
According to the official declaration, the decision co close the fishery on 15 May was made to protect humpback whales, whose migratory path is through the central management area of the fishery.
“I have determined that conducting the California commercial Dungeness crab fishery beyond 15 May, 2020, in the Central Management Area poses a significant risk of marine life entanglement, and that the appropriate management response is a closure of the California commercial Dungeness crab fishery in that area effective 15 May, 2020,” CDFW Director Charlton Bonham said in a new release.
The California Coast Crab Association (CCCA) fired back at the news, issuing a press release that the fishery had been closed due to a “dubious whale crisis.”
“The risk of crab fishing gear harming endangered whales is statistically insignificant because of low concentrations of whale, as well as the relatively small amounts of gear being deployed along the Central California coast,” CCCA President Ben Platt said. “In fact, there have been no confirmed interactions between commercial Dungeness crab gear and any whales during the current crab season.”
CCCA also pointed out that the population of migratory humpbacks that migrate along the California coast is thriving, with an 8 to 10 percent growth rate every year.
“The imagined whale crisis pales in comparison to the reality of COVID-19 which makes our crab fishery more vital now than ever before to the suffering economies of California coastal communities,” Platt said. “The CDFW should not mandate any in-season management actions, especially season or area closures, unless there have been confirmed entanglements between commercial Dungeness crab gear with an [Endangered Species Act]-listed whale.”
A press release from the CDFW said the department would “continue to explore options to assist commercial fishermen regarding federal funds earmarked for fisheries and aquaculture in the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act.”
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