The current Dungeness crab season was delayed by weeks last year to protect migrating gray, humpback, and blue whales; it will now end prematurely in mid-May for the same reason, as well.
Commercial fishing remains the most prevalent means of culling for cetaceans (dolphins, whales, and porpoises), albeit unintentional. As SFist reported on prior, dozens of whales are accidentally killed each year during the state's crabbing seasons as a result of becoming entangled and later drowning in large-scale fishing nets, like the ones used to collect Dungeness crab. But in an attempt to safeguard whales, humpbacks especially — which appear to be adopting new migrating routes — the Californian Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced it will end the current Dungeness crab season on May 15 as a precautionary measure.
According to Eater SF, Dungeness crabbing season on the Northern and Central Coasts is slated to end earlier than anticipated, announced by CDFW Director Charlton Bonham this week. Back in late-2o19, the Chronicle reported then-recent aerial surveys off the California coastline revealed active populations of cetaceans, including blue and humpback whales and other marine life, which led to the CDFW to delay this year’s commercial Dungeness crab season to November 22; it later extended that pause to December 15.
Though by no means related to the COVID-19 pandemic, cutting this year's crabbing season short is bound to put even more monetary pressure on the shoulders of commercial crabbers who are already suffering amid the crisis.
“The continued economic contribution to our fleet and coastal communities is too important during this pandemic,” the California Coast Crab Association (CCCA) wrote in a public statement, urging members to contact Bonham directly to address their concerns: “[When] many people are out of work wondering how they will pay their rent and feed their families. Dungeness crab is a clean, [high-quality] protein food source and commercial fishing is a model of social distancing.”
Ben Platt, head of the CCCA, also added that “the risk of crab fishing gear harming endangered whales is statistically insignificant," though it's worth pointing out he's factually — statistically, historically — wrong.
Did you know that during breeding, humpback males try to escort breeding females and protect this escort by lunging, physically displacing, charging, and striking their rivals?#HIHumpbackSanctuary #ScholarlyMondays pic.twitter.com/bfVfzVFsqG— NOAA HI Islands Humpback Whale NMS (@Hihumpbackwhale) March 30, 2020
Should you still have a hankering to consume the celebrated crustacean's sweet meat, now's the time to satiate said craving. While some of our favorites are either closed or not presently offering to-go, tried-and-true stapes like R&G Lounge and Woodhouse Fish Co. are serving Dungeness crab dishes for either pick up or delivery.
Valued at nearly $70M in 2018, per The Orange County Register, California’s Dungeness crab fishery is one of the state’s most lucrative marine business enterprises. However, efforts led by environmental and biodiversity organizations in recent years have vastly increased whale population counts across the Pacific, in part due to imposed tighter regulations around commercial fishing and new information gleamed from studies about cetacean migration patterns.
Image: Unsplash via vivek kumar