Recreational Dungeness crab season opened Friday in Zone 4 — from Pigeon Point to Lopez Point — but new restrictions designed to protect migrating humpback whales and other marine life has delayed crabbing in some areas.

The commercial fishery will open in this zone Dec. 16. Commercial fishing activity will be limited to depths of 40 fathoms and shallower, and crafts must have an electronic monitoring system.

The commercial fishery will continue to be delayed in Zone 3, from the Sonoma/Mendocino county line to Pigeon Point, due to high numbers of humpback whales present in the Gulf of the Farallones.

The temporary crab trap restriction for the recreational fishery will remain in place in Zone 3 until marine life safety can be evaluated next week. The recreational use of crab traps is permitted in all other local zones.

Crab traps such as this one can pose a threat to some marine animals. California Department of Fish and Wildlife has limited use of the traps in some locations to prevent entanglements. (Photo courtesy of California Department of Fish and Wildlife via Bay City News)

“Fishing Zones 1, 2, 5 and 6 are now open, and fresh Dungeness crabs have been arriving at local markets and onto the plates of eager crab-loving Californians,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton Bonham.

Cases of large whale entanglements off the West Coast have increased in recent years, according to the department. Humpback whales foraging near the Farallones Islands are at risk of becoming entangled in crab traps. Once whales have migrated further south to their winter breeding grounds, the commercial season can open, and the temporary recreational trap restriction in Zone 3 can be lifted. The entanglement risk measures are new this season under updates to the Fish and Game Code.

Visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page to learn more about what is being done to protect the humpback whales. CDFW also provides a page with information about the new recreational crab trap regulations.