After consulting with federal marine mammal officials and with the support of crab fishermen, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issued a letter Tuesday night requesting voluntary actions from the crab fleet to reduce whale entanglements in fishing gear. The Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group issued the attached announcement. The Working Group, which was convened in 2015 in response to an increase in whale entanglements, is comprised of commercial and recreational crab fishermen from throughout the state; conservation organizations Oceana, Earthjustice, Center for Biological Diversity, and The Nature Conservancy; the U.S. Coast Guard, National Marine Fisheries Service, and CDFW. Over the last few years, and currently again in 2016, reports of entangled whales (mostly humpback whales) are occurring at very high rates. The delayed opening of the Dungeness crab fishery this year due to domoic acid has likely resulted in a greater concentration of crab traps later in the season and at a time when ocean waters off the central coast are a hotspot for humpback whales. Also in response to the increase in whale entanglements, the California Assembly Budget Committee voted this week to allocate $100,000 in state funding to support whale disentanglement response efforts.
Geoff Shester, California Campaign Director for Oceana and a Working Group member, issued the following statement:
“The Department’s recommendations are a meaningful step toward preventing whale entanglements in the near term while maintaining important fisheries. We commend the proactive response of crab fishermen to help protect whales. We hope to continue collaborative efforts through the Working Group to develop long-term solutions.”
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation. We run science-based campaigns and seek to win policy victories that can restore ocean biodiversity and ensure that the oceans are abundant and can feed hundreds of millions of people. Oceana victories have already helped to create policies that could increase fish populations in its countries by as much as 40 percent and that have protected more than 1 million square miles of ocean. We have campaign offices in the countries that control close to 40 percent of the world’s wild fish catch, including in North, South and Central America, Asia, and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.