Posts Tagged Dungeness Crab Fishery

May 18 2016

NOAA: Dungeness crab in peril from acidification

As levels of carbon dioxide rise in the atmosphere due to fossil fuel burning and other human-caused pollution, it changes water chemistry, hurting survival of crab larvae.

The Dungeness crab fishery could decline West Coastwide, a new study has found, threatening a fishing industry worth nearly a quarter-billion dollars a year.

Scientists at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle found that pH levels likely in West Coast waters by 2100 at current rates of greenhouse-gas pollution would hurt the survivability of crab larvae.

Increasing ocean acidification is predicted to harm a wide range of sea life unable to properly form calcium carbonate shells as the pH drops. Now scientists at the NOAA’s Northwest Fishery Science Center of Seattle also have learned that animals with chitin shells — specifically Dungeness crabs — are affected, because the change in water chemistry affects their metabolism.

Carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, is pumped into the atmosphere primarily by the burning of fossil fuels. Levels of atmospheric C02 have been steadily rising since the Industrial Revolution in 1750 and today are higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years — and predicted to go higher.

When carbon dioxide mixes with ocean water it lowers the pH. By simulating the conditions in tanks of seawater at pH levels likely to occur in West Coast waters with rising greenhouse gas pollution, scientists were able to detect both a slower hatch of crab larvae, and poorer survival by the year 2100.

That in turn likely would cause a decline in the population of a fishery that is of economic importance to tribal and nontribal fishers alike. The total value of the 2014 Dungeness crab catch in Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington was $211.5 million, according to data provided by NOAA fisheries.

The crab fishery is of great cultural importance, too, a birthright of tribal and nontribal Northwest residents for whom fresh-caught Dungeness crab defines part of what it means to live here.

Crab larvae also are an important food source for a wide range of sea life, including salmon.

Dungeness crab, Cancer magister, is a denizen of coastal and Puget Sound waters. Adults occur in the inshore waters where pH today in summer can be as high as 7.6, but in the future, are predicted to lower to 7.1.

Using eggs and larvae from females captured in Puget Sound, scientists determined the hatching success, larval survival and larval development rate at three pH levels: 8.0, 7.5 and 7.1

Three to four times more larvae survived in higher pH than the lower pH tanks. Those larvae also were slower to hatch, said Paul McElhany, a research ecologist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and senior author of the paper, published online in the scientific journal Marine Biology last month.

While the eggs studied were taken from crabs collected in Puget Sound, “There’s no reason to suspect coastal crabs would respond differently,” McElhany said.

His lab is continuing to examine effects of acidifying seas on other living things. Next up are salmon, where he wants to learn if acidification affects olfactory capacities, potentially damaging the ability to navigate to their home waters.

Other fish species have been found to be harmed by acidifying waters, including clown fish, which mistake predators for prey as pH plummets.

While effects predicted in the research are forecast for the year 2100, levels of acidification could plunge lower sooner, depending on whether levels of greenhouse-gas pollution are brought under control.

“There is some uncertainty about when we reach these levels,” McElhany said.

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Mar 20 2016

Dungeness Crab Fishery

Contacts: Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications (916) 654-9937


Recreational Dungeness Crab Fishery Open South of Sonoma/Mendocino County Line, Commercial Fishery to Open in Seven Days

Closure of the recreational Dungeness crab fishery south of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line has been lifted, and opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery – delayed since November – is set for March 26 in the same region.

Recent test results show that domoic acid levels in crabs off the California coast south of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line no longer pose a significant human health risk, according to notice given today to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) by the director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), after consultation with the Director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

As a result, the director of OEHHA recommends opening the Dungeness crab fishery in this area. Under emergency closure regulations, CDFW will provide commercial Dungeness crab fishermen at least seven days’ notice before the re-opening of the commercial fishery south of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line. The fishery will open at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 26. The presoak period, during which commercial fishermen may begin setting gear in place, starts at 6:01 a.m. Friday, March 25.

Closures remain in place north of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line for the Dungeness crab commercial and recreational fisheries. The commercial and recreational rock crab fisheries are closed north of Piedras Blancas Light Station near San Simeon, and in state waters around San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands.

The unusually high domoic acid levels off the coast this fall and winter wrecked a Dungeness crab fishery worth as much as $90 million a year to California’s economy. Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin that can accumulate in shellfish, other invertebrates and sometimes fish. At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures and may even be fatal.

“This has been a very difficult season for hardworking Californians who have suffered significant financial hardship due to this natural disaster,” said Charlton H. Bonham, Director of CDFW. “We thank the affected communities for their patience and fortitude as we have worked with our partners at CDPH and OEHHA to open a portion of the commercial fishery along a traditional management boundary as recommended by the industry.”

Both the commercial and recreational Dungeness crab seasons are scheduled to end June 30 in the newly opened area, although the CDFW director has authority to extend the commercial season.

In February, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker seeking federal declarations of a fishery disaster and a commercial fishery failure in response to the continued presence of unsafe levels of domoic acid and the corresponding closures of rock crab and Dungeness crab fisheries across California. Should a federal determination be made to declare a disaster and failure, the state and federal agencies will work together to determine the full economic impact of the disaster and, upon appropriation of funds from Congress, provide economic relief to affected crabbers and related businesses.

Despite several weeks of test results that showed crab body meat samples below alert levels, one sample of viscera was slightly above the alert level. Because of this, CDPH and OEHHA strongly recommend that anglers and consumers not eat the viscera (internal organs, also known as “butter” or “guts”) of crabs. CDPH and OEHHA are also recommending that water or broth used to cook whole crabs be discarded and not used to prepare dishes such as sauces, broths, soups or stews. The viscera usually contain much higher levels of domoic acid than crab body meat. When whole crabs are cooked in liquid, domoic acid may leach from the viscera into the cooking liquid. This is being recommended to avoid harm in the event that some crabs taken from an open fishery have elevated levels of domoic acid.

With the upcoming partial opening of the commercial fishery in the state, CDFW recommends that all people fishing for crab refer to the Best Practices Guide, a resource providing tips on how to use crab trap gear in a manner that reduces incidences of whale entanglements. This guide was produced collaboratively by commercial crabbers, agency staff and staff from non-profit organizations during two meetings of the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group that took place late last year.

Pursuant to the emergency regulations adopted by the Commission and CDFW on November 5 and 6, 2015, respectively, the current open and closed areas are as follows:

Areas open to crab fishing include:

• Recreational Dungeness crab fishery along mainland coast south of Sonoma/Mendocino county line – 38° 46.1′ N latitude, near Gualala, Mendocino County

On March 26, 2016 commercial Dungeness crab fishery along mainland coast south of Sonoma/Mendocino county line – 38° 46.1′ N latitude, near Gualala, Mendocino County

• Commercial and recreational rock crab fishery along the mainland coast south of 35° 40′ N latitude (Piedras Blancas Light Station, San Luis Obispo County)

Areas closed to crab fishing include:

• Recreational Dungeness crab fishery north of Sonoma/Mendocino county line – 38° 46.1′ N latitude, near Gualala, Mendocino County

• Commercial Dungeness crab fishery north of Sonoma/Mendocino county line – 38° 46.1′ N latitude, near Gualala, Mendocino County

• Commercial and recreational rock crab fisheries north of 35° 40′ N latitude (Piedras Blancas Light Station)

• Commercial and recreational rock crab fisheries in state waters around San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands.

CDFW will continue to closely coordinate with CDPH, OEHHA and fisheries representatives to extensively monitor domoic acid levels in Dungeness and rock crabs to determine when the fisheries can safely be opened throughout the state.

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Oct 9 2015

Bill to Make Tri-State West Coast Dungeness Fishery Management Permanent Clears House

— Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM. Please do not republish without their permission. —

Copyright © 2015

Seafood News

A bill that will permanently allow Washington, Oregon and California state fishery managers to jointly manage the West Coast Dungeness crab fishery cleared its first hurdle in Congress this week.

HR 2168, the West Coast Dungeness Crab Management Act, proposed by US Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and backed by state Senator Maria Cantwell, passed the US House this week and will now go up for Senate approval.

If approved, the law will allow Washington, Oregon and California to continue their work– at a state level–to manage the West Coast Dungeness Crab Fishery.

The bill actually extends a measure approved in 1996 that allowed the three states to work with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission to manage the stocks and conduct fishery science. It represented a unique marriage of state and federal fishery management.

The 1996 accord is set to expire in 2016, but Beutler’s proposal would make the state and federal pact permanent.

“The successful, two decades-old tri-state Dungeness crab management agreement will expire the on September 30, 2016. This bill simply makes that working management authority between Washington, Oregon, and California permanent,” said Beutler.

This bill will now go before Congress where some industry sources say it has a 68 percent chance of approval.