California’s Dungeness season can start officially Dec. 31 (but there are crabbing caveats)

Humpback whales and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have teamed up to deliver a new year’s gift to the state’s Dungeness crab lovers.

The state’s crab season can begin Dec. 31, officials announced late Thursday afternoon, now that many of the migrating behemoths of the sea have safely made their way down the coast. The decision comes after a series of delays.

But there are restrictions to protect those whales that are still heading south from getting entangled in fishing gear. And negotiations over prices still to start. That means the first taste of California crab for Bay Area foodies may come from Mendocino or farther north, with the real local stuff not in markets and restaurants until January.

Here are highlights from the latest ruling:

— Recreational crabbing using traps is still prohibited from the Sonoma/Mendocino county line south to Mexico. However, recreational fishing with hoop nets and crab snares is allowed.

— Commercial fishing may begin Dec. 31, but a 50% trap reduction has been ordered for the above geographic area, what the state calls Zones 3-6.

— In the far north (Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties), what the state calls Zones 1-2, where crabbing had been delayed because of poor meat quality results, the new tests show that the crabs are ready for market. Crab fishing may start Dec. 31 with no reduction in traps.

— Crab fishing fleets and processors will need to negotiate prices, which could hold up sales in retail markets and restaurants.

This is a developing story. Come back for details.

 


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