SANTA CRUZ, Calif.—The Dungeness crab season on the West Coast is now starting after a delay this year. Some fishing zones are permitted to open with some new restrictions.
On Dec. 9, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced that commercial crabbing in the Monterey Bay region, Zone 4, is officially set to open on Dec. 16, which is nearly a one-month delay from the typical opener.
Locals are excited because they’ve been waiting for a long time in Santa Cruz, located at the northern edge of Monterey Bay.
“It’s a really special time of year—everyone loves crab on their table, and it’s been delayed so we’re all excited to hear that the season is going to be opening again pretty soon,” said Toby Goddard, chairman of the Santa Cruz Port District.
People weren’t allowed to fish for crab recently because the nearby whales could get tangled in the caging equipment.
Hans Haveman, owner of H&H Fresh Fish at the Santa Cruz Harbor, says there are more whales now, and they’re staying in the waters longer because of the bait.
“I mean, I’ve been on the bay my entire life, 50 years, and I’ve never seen this many whales, as what’s out there now,” Haveman said.
“And nobody wants to hurt a whale, and so that makes it really tough.”
The Santa Cruz native has been fishing since childhood. He said fishermen take weeks to months off for crab fishing.
“It’s definitely hard on all our fishermen, that’s the biggest problem,” Haveman said. “They put a big part of their whole year into trying to make a living. It’s their wintertime money, pretty much.”
Dungeness crab season usually begins in November. It’s a big part of the revenue and culture in Santa Cruz.
Goddard said: “Crab is one of the major fisheries that’s left in our area—next to the salmon and halibut. And the fishermen depend on crab for part of their annual income. It’s a very important fishery in California in general.”
Danny Furtado, a resident of San Jose, bought six Dungeness crabs from H&H on Friday.
“Here I paid $14 a pound for it. I think it’s ranging anywhere from $12 to $14, which is actually pretty good, here at the harbor.”
Furtado wanted to cook a special dinner for his father’s birthday.
“I’m sure it’s a lot more expensive somewhere else ’cause they’re probably trucking it in from further. But, yeah, it’s a decent price to pay—I’ll take it any day,” he said.
Brad Briske, the owner of Home, a restaurant in Santa Cruz, said, “There’s actually rock crabs and lots of other things people can fish here if you need all year round which is sustainable too, but the Dungeness crab is super special.”
The CDFW says that the commercial fishery will continue to be delayed near San Francisco, Fishing Zone 3, due to the presence of high numbers of humpback whales in the Gulf of the Farallones.
The temporary crab trap restriction for the recreational fishery will also remain in place in Zone 3 until the next risk assessment, expected to be around Dec. 15, 2021.