State officials have delayed the start of commercial Dungeness crab fishing for the third time this season, in an effort to protect humpback whales and other marine life from entanglements.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said too many whales are present off the California coast, from the Mendocino/Sonoma County line to the U.S.-Mexico border, for commercial crabbing to occur safely.

It’s the third time the season opening has been postponed. Prior to Wednesday’s postponement, delays were also announced on Oct. 28 and Nov. 21. The next assessment will be made by Dec. 22.

“This is absolutely the right decision,” said Catherine Kilduff, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “While the humpbacks are still out there, holding off on crabbing ensures they’ll be safe.”

Kilduff said until the industry starts using ropeless gear, “it’s crucial not to put lines in the water that could entangle some of the ocean’s most majestic creatures.”

More information on the Dungeness crab fishing season is available on the Fish and Wildlife website.