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Dungeness crab season delayed to protect migrating whales

Crab trap
Flickr / Creative Commons
Crab trap

The commercial Dungeness crab season will not be opening as planned on Friday. The state’s Department of Fish and Wildlifedelayed the opening along the central and southern coast. It will reassess the commercial season in late November for a possible December 1 opening.

The recreational Dungeness crab season will open as scheduled on November 5. However, individuals may only use hoop nets, crab snares, or other methods aside from crab traps.

Last year’s Dungeness season was closed early after two humpback whales were entangled in commercial crab fishing gear. And this is the fourth consecutive year that concerns over entanglements have forced the agency to delay the season opening.

A number of studies have linked climate change to an uptick in whale entanglements. Rising ocean temperatures have reduced populations of fish that whales eat,forcing them to forage closer to shore, where they are more likely to encounter fishing gear.

The agency is following the state’s Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program regulations, which require it to restrict Dungeness crab fishing when whales are present and the risk of entanglement is high.

Originally from Chicago, I’ve lived in San Francisco for the past 20 years and am a veteran reporter and communicator. I was most recently editorial director for Activate, a nonprofit that empowers science entrepreneurs to bring their research to market. Prior to that I spent a dozen years as an independent reporter whose beats included climate, energy, microplastics, technology, and recreation. I’ve written for Outside, The Guardian, Al Jazeera America, and many other publications, and in 2014 co-founded a reader-supported experiment in journalism, called Climate Confidential. I had a brief stint in radio during college and can’t wait to learn the craft of audio storytelling.