As Dungeness crab season has been delayed again for the seemingly umpteenth year in a row, two Bay Area fishermen say they have a new crab trap design that ensures the safety of whales, and could make Thanksgiving Dungeness crab a thing again.
Saturday, December 31 will finally kick off this year’s once-again delayed Dungeness crab season, this now being the fourth consecutive year that the season has been delayed over very legitimate concerns that whales will be entangled in the crab fishing gear and die. It seems a distant memory that Dungenss crab was a traditional Bay Area Thanksgiving dish, as it’s been so long since the crabs could be harvested in November.
The Bay Area News Group reports that crabbers are trying to develop solutions that will promote whale safety, and thereby allowing Dungeness crab season to start earlier and end later. Some of these solutions seem rather complicated. As the News Group describes, “One new high-tech design being tested bundles the ropes with crab pots so that the ropes pop up to the surface only when triggered by a timer or a sound alert sent from fishing boats so crews can quickly retrieve the pots.”
That all sounds complicated! But two longtime Bay Area fishermen, Brand Little and Steve Melz, say they have a low-tech solution that merely modifies the current crab traps. It essentially removes half of the trap, preventing a whale entanglement, though would produce lower crab yields for fishermen, and require more attention to the traps that are often left unattended for several days.
Economically, this obviously favors smaller fishing operations. But the larger operations would be able to resume their larger nettings in late December, at which point the migrating whales have generally moved on. Little and Melz are working on getting an experimental fishing permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) for their new method, which they could get as soon as fall 2023.
Image: Norbert Braun via Unsplash