Fresh-caught Dungeness crab will not be on your Thanksgiving menu, as all commercial fishing is delayed in our region until December 1.
Dungeness crab on Thanksgiving has long been a San Francisco tradition, but in recent years the tradition has been that commercial crab fishing season is delayed until after Thanksgiving Day. Sadly, SFist must deliver the no-crab-for-Thanksgiving news for yet another Turkey Day, as KPIX reports that crab fishing, and all commercial fishing in our region for that matter, has been delayed until December 1.
The delay is not related to toxic algae as it was a few years ago, but instead, just like in 2019, this is a whale-related delay. There are humpback whales galore being spotted along the coast and in Monterey Bay, and the threshold for delaying Dungeness crab season is 20 whale sightings, as we don't want whales caught in the lines that get dropped to the ocean floor with crab pots. The Chronicle reports that 50 humpback whales were seen off the coast of the Farallon Islands in the last week of October, plus another 25 other whales near Monterey.
The whales are on a slow annual migration to their breeding grounds off the coast of Mexico.
“While no one wants to delay the season, CDFW and the Working Group feel a delay is necessary to reduce the risk of entanglement,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife director Charlton H. Bonham told the Chronicle, referring to his department and the trade organization California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group. “The fleet has gone to great lengths to be more nimble in order to protect whales and turtles, and the results are promising.”
Only commercial fishing is banned, not recreational fishing. But that’s a moot point anyway around here, because recreational Dungeness crab fishing is not allowed in the San Francisco Bay. This commercial fishing ban covers the entire coastal region from Point Arena in Mendocino County all the way down to the California-Mexico border.
It’s a bummer that we will not be munching on the messy and incredibly high-maintenance delicacy of Dungeness crab until December (although you may still find some that's been fished elsewhere in certain stores), but the upside is that whale watching is booming, and the large numbers of whales we’re seeing indicates that some malnutrition issues may no longer be as severe as previous years.
Image: Freshly cooked Dungeness crab sits on a pot of boiling water at Nick's Lighthouse Restaurant on November 5, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The California Fish and Game Commission voted Thursday to suspend the recreational Dungeness crab fishing for 180 days due to the a high level of the deadly neurotoxin domoic acid that has been found in the meat and viscera of Dungeness crabs caught off the coast of San Francisco. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)