Dungeness crab is a common Christmas delicacy in the Pacific Northwest. However, for the past several years, the fishery’s opening has been delayed due to variety of factors, including migrating whales becoming ensnared in crab traps and toxic domoic acid (from algae blooms) rendering the crab meat unsafe for human consumption. But, this year, it will open on December 1, as it traditionally has for several years prior to the onset of climate change and other human impacts.
As oceans warm, whales desired prey items – like krill – are fewer and far between. This causes whales to wander more to feed themselves and increases the likelihood that they’ll get snagged on fishing gear. Thus, crab fishermen must deploy their gear after whales have passed through the region.
Climate change has not only delayed Dungeness crab fishing on the U.S. west coast, it has also truncated the season by more than half its usual length, from seven to three months long. This also means that the window to earn a livable wage is also shrinking, causing fishermen to take more risks and be out on the water longer.
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