The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced Thursday that commercial and recreational Dungeness crab fishing in Monterey Bay will open Friday.

Fishing Zone 4 from Pigeon Point to Lopez Point will open for recreational Dungeness crab trap fishing under a Fleet Advisory beginning at 9 a.m. on Dec. 10.

The commercial fishery will open in Zone 4 under a Fleet Advisory and Depth Constraint at 12;01 a.m. on Dec. 16, 2021, with a pre-soak period to begin at 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 13.

Commercial fishing activity will be limited to depths of 40 fathoms and shallower across Zone 4 will require to have an electronic monitoring system onboard.

The CDFW says Take is prohibited seaward of 40 fathoms (240 feet) depth contour as defined in federal regulation.

Courtesy: California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In the meantime, the commercial fishery will continue to be delayed in Fishing Zone 3 — from the Sonoma/Mendocino county line to Pigeon Point, due to high numbers of humpback whales in the Gulf of the Farallones.

The temporary crab trap restriction for the recreational fishery will remain in place in Zone 3 until it can be evaluated at the next risk assessment around Dec. 15.

The CDFW says the recreational use of crab traps is permitted in all other zones — except south of Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County.

“We are pleased to announce the opening of Zone 4, allowing additional commercial and recreational crabbing opportunity,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham.

“Fishing Zones 1, 2, 5 and 6 are now open and fresh Dungeness crab have been arriving at local markets and onto the plates of eager crab loving Californians. Successful crabbing for the recreational fishery is also continuing in those zones.”

Current data indicates whales remain in Zone 3, particularly in an area extending from waters off Pigeon Point out to the Farallon Islands.

The use of traps presents an elevated risk of entanglement to humpback whales foraging in this area.

The CDFW says when data indicates more whales have migrated to winter breeding grounds, it will open the commercial season and lift the temporary recreational trap restriction in Zone 3.  

 For more information related to the risk assessment process — visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page or for more information on the Dungeness crab fishery, click here.

For a map of all fishing zones, click here.