Box Crab Pilot Project: Electronic Monitoring for an Experimental Fishery

Project Summary

This project will support implementing electronic monitoring systems on a suite of commercial fishing vessels participating in a box crab experimental gear permit research program to:

  1. Determine the potential for a targeted fishery for box crab in California
  2. Provide guidance for California’s potential broader application of electronic monitoring

In April 2018, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) determined that the fishery for non-Cancer crab, which includes the brown box crab species (box crab), was an “emerging fishery” as defined by the Fish and Game Code Section 7090 of the Marine Life Management Act (MLMA). The Fish and Game Commission (FGC) is required to encourage, manage and regulate emerging fisheries (Fish and Game Code Section 7090). The FGC noticed a proposed regulation change at its June 2018 meeting to limit incidental harvesting of non-Cancer crabs in trap fisheries as the increase in incidental take of non-Cancer crabs, and particularly of box crab, spiked in the past few years (Exhibit B and C). Simultaneously, FGC directed CDFW to pursue development of an experimental gear permit for box crab specifically, allowing fishermen to target box crab while also requiring collaboration with the state on research.

OPC support of this project will fund the electronic monitoring tools, observers, data review and analysis from the electronic monitoring tools, as well as convening an advisory committee of participating fishermen, state agency staff, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) staff and other experts. Two different electronic monitoring systems will be tested, one of which utilizes a camera system, and the other which utilizes a non-camera system that will be paired with human observers. The project will also support collaboration with a research lab to investigate the potential for development of a machine-learning algorithm for automated measurement of box crab size and sex from the video footage.

Timeline: August 2018 – April 2022

Grant Amount: Up to $280,000

Grantee: Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC)

Photo: Derek Stein (CDFW)

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