No Safety Net As State Ending Dungeness Crab Season In Mid-May

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 17: Fisherman offload Dungeness Crab from their fishing vessel on November 17, 2010 in San Francisco, California.
Photo credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Commercial fisherman already struggling with supply chain problems are disappointed the state of California has decided to close the Dungeness crab fishery in mid-May.

They contend the closure will hurt communities already struggling with coronavirus-related challenges.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife said Wednesday it understands the challenges faced by California’s commercial fishing industry during these difficult times and that closing the season on May 15 allows for more time on the water while balancing the need to protect whales and sea turtles.

California Coast Crab Association President Ben Platt told KCBS Radio the risk to whales is statistically insignificant.

"There have been no entanglements between commercial Dungeness crab gear and any whales let alone any of the whales that are listed on the endangered species act," Platt said. "There have been no interactions with our gear during this whole season."

The California Coast Crab Association said in a statement the "imagined whale crisis pales in comparison to the reality of COVID-19 which makes our crab fishery more vital now than ever."

"During this time of massive unemployment, it seems like a really ill-informed thing to do," Platt said. "There are a lot of people that depend every year on this spring fishery because the amount of catch goes down, but the prices go way up, so it’s an important part of the business for a fair number of crabbers in California."

CDFW Director to Allow Commercial Dungeness Crab Season South of Sonoma/Mendocino County Line to Continue Until May 15, Then Close to Protect Whales

— California Department of Fish and Wildlife (@CaliforniaDFW) April 22, 2020

San Francisco Community Fishing Association President Larry Collins told KCBS Radio the season used to go to the end of June - until whales started getting tangled in crab nets in 2015 when sea temperatures were unusually warm.

"Now we’re back to normal water temperatures, you know 52, 50 (degrees)," Collins said. "When the water’s cold like that everything’s hunky dory out there and the whales are on top of their behavior and they don’t get tangled up."

The Department of Fish and Wildlife said it’s exploring options to assist commercial fishermen regarding federal funds earmarked for fisheries.