Under new rules, California’s fish and wildlife department may prohibit use of crab traps during part of the upcoming Dungeness recreational season.
Agency director Charlton Bonham on Wednesday announced the protocol for determining gear restrictions. On Monday, Nov. 1, a hearing will assess data on populations of humpback whales and Pacific leatherback sea turtles off California’s coast. If that data suggests there’s a substantial risk of those animals getting entangled in crab traps’ lines and buoys, then the traps may be prohibited when the recreational Dungeness season opens on Nov. 6.
Any mid-season restrictions will also be announced five days in advance.
Additionally, the new regulations adopted by the state’s fish and game commission stipulate each crab trap may have only one main buoy and one small marker buoy, of specific sizes; a crabber can run only 10 traps at a time; and the traps must be checked every nine days. Anyone using a crab trap must have a validation stamp, which can be bought for $2.42, in addition to a fishing license.
Crab traps, or crab pots, are constructed so that crabs lured in by bait cannot exit. The traps are dropped, marked with buoys, and left for up to several days. They are required to have small escape hatches for undersize crabs.
Any delay of the use of traps would not affect three other types of gear:
Hoop nets. A collapsible mesh basket is baited and dropped. When the crabber pulls it up, the crabs are caught in the basket.
Snares (crab loops). Flexible loops are attached to a small bait cage. The crabber feels a tug on the cage’s line, yanks it to tighten the loops, and pulls it up to remove the lassoed crabs.
Hand lines. Bait is tied to a line. When a crab grabs on to the bait, the line is reeled in until the crab can be scooped up in a net.
The commercial Dungeness season is scheduled to open Nov. 15 south of the Mendocino-Sonoma county line and Dec. 1 north of the line. Since 2015, all but one season has been delayed, either because of the marine life entanglement issue or because of domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin that contaminates shellfish.
Click here for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s information on Dungeness crab.
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Author: Bay Area News Group