Crab Season Opens Under New Trap Limit Laws

As the holiday season approaches, so does California’s Dungeness commercial crab season. Set to open in Central California, south of the Mendocino-Sonoma county line, on November 15, and in early December northern portions of the state, the 2013-2014 season will be the first commercial crab season under the new trap limit laws. While in previous seasons, the number of crab pots commercial crab fishermen could fish was not limited by law, new statutes and regulations now assign each California commercial Dungeness crab permit a maximum number of traps that may be used. Each permit is assigned to one of seven tiers, each of which corresponds to a specific number of traps, ranging from 175 to 500 traps per vessel. Every trap aboard a permitted Dungeness crab vessel in California waters must have a valid tag attached to both the trap and the buoy. Each buoy tag is assigned to the specific vessel.
Fishermen were assigned to one of these seven tiers in February of 2013 based on their permit’s California landing history from November 2003 through July 2008. Permits with the highest landings during this five season period were assigned the most pots. Fishermen can appeal their tier assignment as prescribed by the regulations. Each appeal to revise the number of traps upward includes a hearing before an administrative law judge at the Office of Administrative Hearings. All decisions to appeal must be submitted to the Department of Fish and Wildlife by March 31, 2014.
In implementing this new regulatory scheme, California follows both Oregon and Washington in limiting the number of traps used in the industry. Oregon and Washington implemented a similar trap limit law in 2006 and 1999, respectively.
For more information about appealing a trap tag assignment or the new scheme in general, visit the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Dungeness Crab Trap Limit Program website or call Megan Yarnall at Janssen Malloy LLP for additional information and assistance.