Upcoming Regulation Changes for Commercial Dungeness Crab and Other Trap Fisheries

Dungeness crab
Dungeness crab
CDFW photo by C. Juhasz

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is developing several important regulation changes that will affect the commercial Dungeness crab fleet and other trap fisheries in 2020 and beyond.

Lost or Abandoned Trap Gear Retrieval Program
New CDFW regulations regarding commercial Dungeness crab trap gear that has been lost or abandoned are in place as of September 2019 and will be in effect at the close of the 2019-2020 season. Under CDFW’s Trap Gear Retrieval Program (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 132.7), qualified entities apply for a Retrieval Permit from CDFW and oversee on-the-water retrieval activities of up to 10 commercial trap fishermen.

Gear retrieved under the permit becomes the property of the Retrieval Permittee, who must notify the Dungeness crab vessel permit holder and offer to return the gear in exchange for reasonable compensation. Should compensation not be provided, CDFW will provide a fixed payment to the Retrieval Permittee and levy a per-trap fee on the Dungeness crab vessel permit holder.

Existing regulations (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 132.2) allowing commercial Dungeness crab vessel permit holders to retrieve up to six derelict traps on a given fishing trip, and an unlimited number of derelict traps from July 16 through October 31, will not be affected.

CDFW encourages interested individuals to connect with local harbors, commercial fishing associations, and non-profit organizations to discuss applying for a 2020 Retrieval Permit. Permit application forms will be posted early next year on CDFW’s License and Revenue Branch web page.

Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program Rulemaking
CDFW is currently scoping regulations to formalize the Risk Assessment Mitigation Program developed by the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group. The Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program will assess circumstances where marine life entanglement risk may be elevated and, as needed, identify possible management measures for the CDFW Director’s consideration.

CDFW anticipates releasing draft regulations for public comment in February 2020, with regulations effective for the 2020-2021 season. Documents will be posted on CDFW’s Proposed Regulations web page. Informational notices will also be mailed to all Dungeness crab vessel permit holders.

Proposed Gear Changes for Trap Fisheries: Fixed Gear Marking
CDFW is developing a standardized gear marking program for the trap fisheries operating off the coast of California to improve identification of fisheries involved in marine life entanglements. The regulatory proposal is currently in the final stages of the rulemaking process, and regulations are expected to be in effect November, 2019.

While new marking requirements will not be required in the Dungeness crab fishery, new marking requirements are being proposed for spiny lobster, rock crab, tanner crab, spot prawn, coonstripe shrimp, and nearshore finfish trap buoys. Under the current proposal, compliance with the new requirements will become mandatory starting May 1, 2020. More information is available on the CDFW website.

For additional information on any of the topics above, please contact Ryan Bartling, CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Specialist, at (707) 576-2877.

post by Christy Juhasz, CDFW Environmental Scientist