BERKELEY, Calif. (KRON) — From Monterey to Point Area along the Mendocino County coast, commercial and recreational crab fishing will be delayed this season.
Just weeks before Thanksgiving, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that the Dungeness crab fishing season will be delayed due to the presence of humpback whales and leatherback sea turtles.
Last year, the crab fishing season was also delayed for similar reasons.
“It’s really upsetting just knowing that, oh boy, here we go,” said Captain James Smith, who operates two charter crab fishing boats out of the Berkeley Marina.
“Now we have to dash all these people’s hopes for holiday crab, it’s part of our culture here, this is what we’ve grown up with our entire lives,” said Smith.
“It’s part of our culture here, this is what we’ve grown up with our entire lives.”
Thinking there could be some problems to start this year’s crab fishing season, Smith invested $20,000 in lightweight “hoop nets”.
The State’s Fish and Wildlife allows these alternative “hoop” nets which are normally used for catching lobster.
“The commercial sector was more or less signaled out for whale entanglements,” said Smith.
“You’re talking 175,000 traps going into the water for commercial versus roughly 4,000 pots going in the water for sport or recreational,” Smith added.
“And so we hadn’t had to deal with this on the sports side of the industry until this season.”
Ongoing challenges with crab fishing
Smith tells KRON4 News just a few years ago he was also on the commercial side of the industry but concerns over whales and other animals being entangled by nets forced him to shut down the operation.
Smith says there were times when he couldn’t go out in the water until at least February.
“The whale entanglement thing and delays pretty much frustrated me,” said Smith.
“I sold out of that part just to get into sport fishing because I didn’t have to deal with quite as much politics,” Smith added.
“And here politics found the industry and we’re on the same delay like the commercial guys.”
Now, Smith and his crew are working around the clock to gather as much crab as possible before the height of the holiday season.
Under regular circumstances, the crab fishing season would typically last 60 days, accounting for about one third of Smiths’ annual income.
“Just like a lot of things this year, be prepared to pay full price,” said Smith.
“You’re going to pay a premium for them because most of the crab is going to come from out of state and trucked down here.”
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