The California Department of Fish and Wildlife recently released new data regarding California commercial Dungeness crab landings and appeals of trap limits by fishermen under the new trap limit program. The release of the data coincided with the first 2014 Dungeness Crab Task Force meeting, held in Ukiah on April 22, 2014. The meeting was also the first gathering of the Task Force since the new trap limit program went into effect at the beginning of the 2013-2014 commercial Dungeness season. Under the new trap limit program, the number of crab traps commercial fishermen can use in the fishery is limited based on the landing history of their commercial vessel permit between 2003 and 2008. An appeal procedure allowed fishermen to appeal their trap allocation where their landings during the 2003-2008 time period were reduced as a result of unusual circumstances that constituted an unfair hardship, taking into account the permit’s overall California landing history. According to the recently released data, a total of 42 appeals were filed, approximately half of which are still pending. Of the 22 resolved appeals, 5 were settled between the fishermen and the Department of Fish and Wildlife without a hearing. The remaining 17 were decided via the administrative hearing process. Only three fishermen prevailed and were awarded additional crab trap tags, while the Department of Fish and Wildlife prevailed in 14 such cases. The Department of Fish and Wildlife is currently appealing all three cases in which the fishermen prevailed. Notably, the eight total cases that increased fishermen’s crab trap tag allocations added a total of 725 traps to the fishery, which previously included a total of 172,400 permitted traps. While many cases have yet to be resoled, the addition of the 725 traps added to date represents an increase of less than half of one percent in the number of traps used industry wide.
The deadline for fishermen to appeal their trap tag allocation was March 31, 2014. Outstanding appeals are expected to be resolved within the coming year, with additional data regarding the outcome of such appeals expected at the next Dungeness Crab Task Force meeting.