Conditions Were Pleasant With Moderate Winds and Low Swell

Monterey Bay

Barred Surfperch, Barred Surfperch
Your humble fish correspondent found a few barred surf perch of the jumbo variety this week, fishing local beaches in Santa Cruz.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Let's Go Fishing Radio Show

by Allen Bushnell

This week, fishing on the Monterey Bay was much like last week. Conditions were pleasant with moderate winds and low swells. Todd Fraser from Bayside Marine in Santa Cruz summed up Saturday’s report, which set the tone for the first few days of the week. Fraser reported, “The fishing conditions were good today and anglers fished from Ano Nuevo to Four-Mile Beach for a mix of lingcod, rockfish, crabs and halibut. The rockfishing is good and there are still a few halibut being caught in 70-90 feet near Five-Mile and in Capitola. The crab fishing is decent in 150-225 feet of water near Davenport and Pajaro. The wind and swells were down.” Higher waves on Thursday and Friday are expected to subside by the weekend, hopefully leaving improved nearshore structure along our beaches as perch fishing season swings into high gear.

Many anglers and families sorely missed the traditional Dungeness crab component of our coastal Thanksgiving holiday. Commercial crab season was delayed due to concerns of whale entanglements. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced on Tuesday an extension of this season‘s delay. Do not be surprised if commercial Dungeness is not available until after December 16 this year. The DFW announcement said, “The commercial Dungeness crab season in the central management area, Point Arena to the Mexico border, will continue to be delayed due to the presence of whales within fishing grounds and the potential for entanglement. In early December, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director will re-assess entanglement risk in the central management area and evaluate risk in the northern management area to inform the season opener for both areas.”

Commercial crabbers are beginning to push back against what many perceive to be an overconcern on part of the CDFW. Ben Platt is president of the California Coast Crab Association, and he complains, ““Since mid-November, fishermen have had to sit idle at the dock. Meanwhile, Californians are being denied access to fresh, delicious holiday crab.” New CDFW rules are known as the Risk Assessment Mitigation Program, or RAMP. According to Platt, the RAMP regulations are “ more restrictive than even the strictest fishery laws in the nation, the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).” Platt has done the research, and has a markedly different opinion on potential danger to whales than does the CDFW. He says, “ Humpback whales, the only ESA listed marine mammal which has any potential co-occurrence with the crab fishery, are a robust and thriving population. The only significant non-naturally occurring mortality to whales off the CA coast is caused by large ship strikes. These cruise and cargo ships kill between 50-150 whales a year, yet humpback whale population is still expanding at a rate of 7.5 percent annually, according to the Cascadia Research Collective (CRC), a highly respected marine mammal study center. When the Center for Biological Diversity first sued CDFW in 2018 over the interaction issue, there was thought to be 2,900 Humpback whales, but recent official revisions to the population count shows more than 7,200 migrating off the West Coast,” said Platt. “The California Dungeness crab fishery had only one confirmed interaction with a whale last crab season, and that whale was released unharmed. Our fishery is having zero impact on the species, and in fact, we are hopeful Humpbacks will soon be removed from the Endangered Species List.”

A quick search of the National Maine Fisheries Service records indicates only five reported entanglements were connected to the commercial Dungeness crab industry in 2019 for the entire West Coast, of which three occurred in California, and none were listed as fatal for the whales.

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