Commercial crabbers are beginning to get to work throughout the state, except in the Bay Area, where officials say there are still too many humpback whales in the Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced on Monday that commercial crabbing will be allowed north of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line to the Oregon border starting Dec. 1. Commercial crab season is open in Fishing Zones 5 and 6, which cover from Monterey County to the Mexican border. 

However, the state noted there is still a high risk of whale entanglement from crab pot lines from Sonoma County to Lopez Point in Monterey County — the region the CDFW calls Fishing Zones 3 and 4 — meaning commercial crabbing remains prohibited in the Bay Area for the time being. That means a further delay of the Bay Area’s commercial crab operations that were scheduled to open on Nov. 15. Weather permitting, the state expects to conduct more surveys on or before Dec. 15.  

Meanwhile, recreational crabbing is open statewide. In the Bay Area, sport crabbers are restricted to using hoop nets and snares and aren’t allowed to place traps.  

CDFW documents show that aerial surveys from NOAA researchers on Nov. 10 and 11 observed 73 humpback whales in Zone 3. Another vessel survey counted 79 humpback whales over two days in Zone 3, which encompasses Sonoma County to Pigeon Point. 

In 2020, the state pushed back commercial crab season in the Bay Area three times and didn’t open until Dec. 23. 

“Available data indicate high numbers of whales remain in the fishing grounds,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said in a statement issued Friday night. “When data indicate whales have migrated out of the fishing grounds, CDFW stands ready to open the commercial season and lift the temporary recreational trap restriction in Fishing Zones 3 and 4.”

August Howell is a staff writer for the Review covering city government and public safety. Previously, he was the Review’s community, arts and sports reporter. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon.

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