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latest news Closure of Dungeness crab fishing areas after whale entanglements

All commercial Dungeness crab fishing grounds off the California coast will close this month after humpback whales became entangled in fishing gear during their migrating season, wildlife officials said.

Fishing Areas 1 and 2, which stretch from the California-Oregon border to Point Arena in Mendocino County, will be closed beginning noon April 20, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The closures of Zones 3 through 6, from Point Arena to the California-Mexico border, were announced last month and went into effect Friday.

“We have received reports of additional humpback whale entanglements and have quickly closed the fishery to protect migrating humpback whales that are just beginning to return to California waters,” the fisheries manager said Wednesday. and wildlife, Charlton Bonham, in a statement.

“While this has an economic impact on some sectors of our coastal fishing communities, it is important to protect both the whales and the long-term viability of commercial fishing,” he said.

The North Bay Business Journal reported the Dungeness Crab harvest was worth around $30.1 million in 2020 and up to $83.1 million in 2016.

The closures come after the department assessed the safety of crab fishing gear following numerous incidents where whales got tied up in the gear.

The traps themselves lie on the ocean floor, but the whales found themselves tied up in fishing lines connecting the traps to the buoys.

As of Monday, there had been five confirmed entanglements of humpback whales in 2022, according to data released by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. These included tangles off Santa Cruz, near Half Moon Bay and in Monterey Bay.

During the Monterey Bay incident on March 19, the whale was documented “dragging a set of gear (a tagged main buoy, a towline buoy, and an end line buoy),” the department said in his report.

Just days after the department announced the closure of Areas 3-6 on March 25, two additional entanglements were confirmed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, resulting in the closure of the remaining areas.

Bonham also authorized a program that would remove equipment left in the water from April 15 in zones 3 to 6 and from April 27 in zones 1 and 2.

“The past few seasons have been difficult for fishing families, communities and businesses, but it’s imperative that we strike the right balance between protecting humpback whales and providing fishing opportunities,” Bonham said in a statement. March 25 announcement.

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