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Bodega Bay Crab Fleet still testing crabs with Domoic Acid


Bodega Bay Crab Fleet still testing crabs with Domoic Acid

© PHOTO of Crab fisherman Diego Quiroz by John Hershey Phtography

By Jim Kelly

The Pirates of Bodega Bay

A little-known fact is, Pirates in the 17th and 18th Centuries created one of the first democracies, voting for their captains and quartermasters, and voting them out if things didn’t work out. They weren’t made to walk the plank afterwards, they were merely demoted to the rank of members of the crew.

Amazingly these high ideals are still held today, at least by the commercial fishing fleet in Bodega Bay. On Feb. 15, a hearty battle broke out (only verbal) among the fishermen who have recently seen their world fall apart with the dispute over tainted crab. It was somewhat like a manly square dance with captains and crew changing sides frequently but in the end, they all came to an agreement.

Bodega Bay commercial fishermen, as a solid group, decided to hold to their guns (cannons) and refuse to go crabbing as long as there are tainted crabs in the waters. Their latest test, taken on Feb. 6, showed crabs above the safety margin for domoic acid. Their decision to continue to hold their boats back was made in the interest of the public’s health.

While this may seem to be the obvious thing to do for thinking folks, it doesn’t square with the Fish and Wildlife decision to let sport fishermen pull in crabs from Point Reyes south, a mere 12 miles from Bodega Bay. Keep in mind, crabs can, and do, travel seven to ten miles in search of food.

The Executive Committee of the Dungeness Crab Task Force (DCTF) held a meeting on Feb. 16, to decide what recommendations they would make to the California Fish and Wildlife director, Charlton “Chuck” Bonham in regards to following suit and opening commercial fishing to the area Fish and Wildlife opened up to sport fishermen on Jan. 1st.

After hearing input from the commercial fishermen and public at large, the seven-person committee voted unanimously to pass on opening commercial fishing from Point Reyes south.

Their recommendation to Bonham will be to either open commercial fishing state wide or by districts for the following reasons.

1.       Protection of the Public.

2.       To avoid a concentration of crab cages around Point Reyes for the protection of migrating whales.

3.       To conform to proven, existing rules of safety for consumers.     

Bodega Bay commercial fishermen will continue to pull test crabs from the water until they come up with two clean tests in a row.

Kudos to the Pirate Fleet of Bodega Bay.


Update: Feb. 17, 2016

The Pirates won!

Informed by extensive feedback from members of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery, Charlton “Chuck” Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) decided today to keep the commercial Dungeness crab fishery closed until the health advisory for Dungeness crabs can be lifted for the entire California coast or it can be lifted south of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line, whichever comes first.

But the Public is Still at Risk

For some unknown reason, Governor Edmund G. Brown’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment opened the Crab Season on Jan 1, and is now allowing sport fishermen to take in possibly tainted crabs from Point Reyes to Half Moon Bay.

Public beware and I hope Governor Brown doesn’t get sick from crabs loaded with Domoic Acid.

Fifty percent (50%) of the last tests of Crabs in Northern California tested positive for Domoic Acid.

Crab report as of February 18, 2016 at 5:50 P.M. PST

Crescent City -  clean

Trinidad,  5/12 bad

Eureka  clean

Fort Bragg  4/12 bad

Bodega Bay  6/18 bad

Half Moon Bay/San Francisco clean

Monterrey clean

Morro Bay  clean




A California Dungeness Crab Task Force (DCTF) Executive Committee conference call  Tuesday, February 16, 2016 at 10am.
DCTF Executive Committee Conference Call
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Call-in #: 1-218-844-1930
Participant Code: 7927150 
 (Note: this code is ONLY for the public and non-EC DCTF members)  

Message from CDFW in anticipation of February 16 EC call:
“In anticipation of the upcoming DCTF Executive Committee conference call on Tuesday, February 16, the Department of Fish and Wildlife is providing additional information and specifically seeking feedback on how to approach the opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery.  In line with the Executive Committee’s guidance, the Department’s intention has been to work toward a statewide opener. However, given the recent sampling results and memo from OEHHA that triggered the automatic opening of the recreational sector south of Point Reyes pursuant to the Fish and Game Commission emergency regulation, there is now an option to consider opening the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in this same area.  The Department seeks feedback on the option to open the commercial Dungeness crab fishery, at the earliest, beginning seven days after the Tuesday February 16, DCTF Executive Committee call in the area south of 38° 00′ N Latitude (near Point Reyes in Marin County). This would result in a commercial presoak that begins on February 22, 2016 at 06:01am with the fishery opening south of 38° 00′ N Latitude on February 23, 2016 at 12:01am.  Another option would be to not open and await the ability to open broader areas of coastline (e.g., statewide, by management area, etc.) as crab in the remaining areas clear of domoic acid. The Department looks forward to having a constructive discussion with the DCTF Executive Committee and other call participants on Tuesday, and greatly values the DCTF Executive Committee calls as an appropriate venue for these discussions.”

Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery– CDFW Frequently Asked Questions (updated 2/12/16)

The following materials will be discussed during the DCTF Executive Committee call:

Additional support materials for the February 16 DCTF Executive Committee call may be posted online prior to the meeting date.

The DCTF was established pursuant to the requirements of Senate Bill 369. The DCTF will review the current management of the Dungeness crab fishery including the commercial Dungeness crab trap limit program and recommend potential Dungeness crab management changes to California legislature and regulators. The DCTF Executive Committee (EC) was appointed and voted on by the DCTF at an April 2012 DCTF meeting. The intent of the EC is to act as an advisory body between scheduled DCTF meetings. The EC cannot make decisions on behalf of the DCTF and all discussion topics and ideas generated by the EC must be reported back to the DCTF.
For more information about the DCTF, please visit the Ocean Protection Council's website:, or contact the DCTF Admin Team or 805.845.9852. Thank you for your interest in California's Dungeness crab resource management. 

Copyright © 2016 Strategic Earth Consulting, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you opted in via the DCTF website,


February 12, 2016 

Opening Closed Areas for the Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery - Frequently Asked Questions

The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) have been developed in response to the recent opening of the recreational Dungeness crab fishery. Information provided is framed within this context. For additional FAQs related to the closure of Dungeness crab fisheries due to elevated levels of domoic acid, click here.

Q: How does the 30-day fair start rule apply under different commercial Dungeness crab fishery opening scenarios?

A: Anyone who has already taken, possessed onboard, or landed Dungeness crab in Oregon or Washington would have to wait 30 days to fish anywhere in California once an area is opened.

A: If the fishery were to open only south of Pt Reyes (District 10/south), the fair start is applied to the entire District and to the open Districts to the south. If a person fished in the open portion of District 10 first, they would not have to wait an additional 30 days to fish in the closed portion of District 10, when it opens. 

Example: If a commercial fisherman starts fishing in the Half Moon Bay area when the season opens south of Pt Reyes and two weeks later the area north of Pt Reyes in District 10 opens, this fisherman would not have to wait another 30 days to fish in Bodega Bay. The season in District 10 would start the first day that any portion of District 10 opens.

A: Anyone who chooses to fish in any portion of District 10, prior to Districts 6, 7, 8, or 9 opening, would have to wait 30 days prior to fishing in Districts 6, 7, 8, or 9.

A: If only portions of Districts open, the earliest date that each District opens is the start date for purposes of the 30 day wait period.

Example: Commercial Dungeness crab season opens in the northern portion of District 7 (Eureka and Crescent City areas), but the southern portion of District 7 (Fort Bragg area) remains closed.

If a Dungeness crab permittee has not fished crab elsewhere, s/he could begin fishing in the Eureka area when it opens. There would not be any 30 day fair start once the Fort Bragg area opens later.

If a Dungeness crab permittee has fished outside of Districts 6, 7, 8, or 9, s/he would start a 30 day wait period when any portion of those districts open. In this example, the 30 day fair start would start when the Eureka area opens. 


Q: What is the Department’s approach to opening new areas?

A: The Department’s goal is to keep the fishery as simple as possible to engage and enforce.  The ideal scenario would have been a simultaneous statewide opener.

However, balancing against keeping it simple is the pressure to provide fishing opportunity on safe crab as soon as possible. The clearing trend of domoic acid from crab has led to a compromise solution, which has resulted in the recreational fishery opening south of Pt. Reyes. Future opportunities to open the remaining areas will be evaluated based on a balance between providing opportunity to fish on safe crab and maintaining a rational and enforceable fishery.


Q: Why did the recreational fishery open suddenly without any notification period unlike the commercial fishery?

A: Current regulations (Section 29.85, Title 14, CCR) adopted by the Fish and Game Commission last November in response to high domoic acid concentrations found in crab, require the opening of closed areas as soon as the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, in consultation with the Department of Public Health, notifies the Fish and Game Commission that it has determined that Dungeness crab in an area no longer pose a significant risk to public health.


Q: Can a commercial vessel transit through a closed area to land crab caught in an open area?

A: Transiting of commercially caught crab from an open to a closed area is allowed as long as no fishing gear is deployed in the closed area, and possessing the crab are not subject to the 30 day fair start provision. 


Q: A commercial crab fisherman takes crab in the open area south of Pt Reyes and wants to land his crab in Bodega Bay, which is still closed. Is this legal?

A: Yes. Both of these areas are in District 10 and therefore this activity would not be prohibited.

Q: A commercial crab fisherman takes crab in the open area south of Pt Reyes and wants to land his crab in Fort Bragg, which is still closed. Is this legal?

A: No. Since the fisherman now fished in a portion of District 10, he cannot transit/possess Dungeness crab in Districts 6, 7, 8, or 9 while those areas remain closed, and for 30 days after they open.

Crab Map - 1

Crab Map 2


Crab Map - 3