HALF MOON BAY, Calif. - The official start of the commercial crabbing season has been delayed.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton Bonham issued a preliminary ruling that will delay commercial Dungeness Crab fishing until December 15 due to what his office says is a “significant risk of marine life entanglement.”
The season had already been pushed back one week due to whale concerns.
Fishermen at Half Moon Bay had already decided to do a voluntary tie-up, following the Bodega Bay Fleet’s lead after the fleet decided to hold off on heading out into the water due to growing concerns about whale encounters.
Instead of bait going on the boats at Half Moon Bay, it was on a truck leaving the dock.
Donald Marshall is the owner and operator of the boat “Northern Light.” He said, “Everybody is extemely stressed. I would classify waiting as what I would call a nightmare for us. This is a financial nightmare for people that are in this industry."
Marshall said fishermen want to keep the whales safe, but every hour spent out of the water, is a major hit on the wallet.
"We really need to bring in a significant amout of money to be able to make the percentages. You know my guys are, they're base...they don't get paid hourly or salary. They get paid on production,” he added.
An aerial survey done on Monday showed more than 80 humpback whales still in the Bay Area. But this isn’t the only reason fishermen are on edge. Crabs tested positive for a toxin called domoic acid. It’s the same toxin that devastated the local industry in 2016 and cost California’s economy almost $50 million. Fortunately new test results came back clear Wednesday evening.
The industry is already being squeezed by shorter fishing season. In 2018 the season was cut short by three months to help minimize the risk of entanglement to marine mammals.
Fishermen can still submit recommendations or new information to Director Bonham who will consider the submissions until 4:45 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019.