Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery Updates

Dungeness crab
Dungeness crab
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The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) would like to provide a quick summary of several significant updates and changes regarding the commercial Dungeness crab fishery.

Crab Disaster Funding
CDFW is working closely with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission to distribute federal disaster funds to affected crab sectors.  As of late September 2019, nearly all direct payments have been distributed to eligible individuals and businesses.  The remaining disaster funds are allocated to the California Department of Public Health to facilitate processing crab samples and fund research proposals that aim to better understand domoic acid and how the fishery can better respond to future domoic acid events.

Pre-Season Testing – Domoic Acid and Quality
CDFW is coordinating with health agencies and fishermen to begin collecting Dungeness crab samples for domoic acid testing. We intend to start submitting samples to the California Department of Public Health’s laboratory during the first week of October, 2019. Samples will be collected across all ports over the course of several weeks to complete the first round of testing. Port areas may continue to be tested based on initial results, and results will be posted on the California Department of Public Health website.

Quality testing will be coordinated during the last week of October for the port areas of Crescent City, Trinidad, and Eureka. These are subject to change pending domoic acid testing results.

Proposed Changes to Tri-State Quality Testing Protocols
In May 2019, a Tri-State meeting was held in Portland, Oregon where managers and industry discussed and reviewed current quality testing protocols and options to incorporate more flexibility into protocols due to marine life entanglement risk.

One option that was explored included lowering meat quality criteria from 25 percent (rounded to the nearest integer) to 24 percent (not rounded) in the region south of Cascade Head, Oregon. Lowering the criteria could expedite a season opener in the northern management area (Sonoma/Mendocino county line north to the CA/OR border).  State managers did not adopt this change for the upcoming season pending further discussion with industry representatives of the Dungeness Crab Task Force (DCTF).

Other additions to the quality testing protocol allow for the consideration of multiple lines within the Tri-State region based on which port areas meet the quality criteria. This change could be adopted by Washington and Oregon for the upcoming season; however, California will not add lines as the current statute specifies that quality delays apply to the entire northern management area.

Lastly, the protocol was modified to allow delaying the season opening date to February 1 after the third round of meat quality testing, but only if the marine life entanglement risk is predicted to be low. California can’t delay the season beyond January 15 because of existing statute.

Status of Dungeness Crab Task Force
The California Ocean Protection Council recently announced the results of the DCTF elections for the ports of Crescent City, Trinidad, Fort Bragg, San Francisco, and south of Half Moon Bay. Elections took place between April and June 2019 with support from CDFW. Plans are under way to hold a DCTF meeting in mid-October 2019. Agenda items for this meeting will include updates to biotoxin management, consideration of evisceration, discussions for potential Tri-State meat quality criteria changes, and implementation of the settlement and application of an Incidental Take Permit for listed whales and turtles. The date and location are still to be determined, but more information will be posted on the DCTF website as it becomes available. Elections for the remaining commercial port areas of Eureka, Bodega Bay, Half Moon Bay, and “non-resident” will be held in early 2020.

If you need additional information, please contact CDFW Environmental Scientist Christy Juhasz at (707) 576-2887 or

post by Christy Juhasz, CDFW Environmental Scientist