What Oceana is Doing
Since 2018, Oceana has worked with California Dungeness crab fishermen, gear manufacturers, fishery managers, and enforcement officers to conduct initial tests of pop-up fishing technologies. Throughout these trials, fishermen were able to successfully deploy and retrieve crab traps with multiple pop-up systems with an overall success rate of 95%, exceeding the regulatory criteria of 90%.
According to California state regulations, California fishery managers are required to approve specific pop-up systems as alternative gear when these various gear types are shown to be reliable, detectable, identifiable, and enforceable by wildlife officers while benefiting whales and sea turtles. Approved alternative gear can be used in spring months (beginning April 1) to allow continued fishing even when whales are in the fishing grounds. This provides incentives for fishermen to use the gear and allows for a longer crab fishing season while avoiding entanglements. California allows fishermen to commercially fish pop-up gear to demonstrate it meets the regulatory criteria through an Experimental Fishing Permit program.
In 2021, Oceana partnered with pop-up gear manufacturer Sub Sea Sonics to conduct trials of reliability of timed-release pop-up gear in the rock crab and Dungeness crab fisheries in Monterey Bay, demonstrating high reliability and functionality. Click here to read the summary report from these pop-up gear trials. Based on these successful results, Oceana and Sub Sea Sonics requested California Department of Fish and Wildlife authorize this timed-release system as alternative gear in winter 2022. However, the Department denied the request due to the need to develop enforcement protocols and recommended additional gear trials through Experimental Fishing Permits. On Feb 9, 2023 the California Fish and Game Commission unanimously approved an Experimental Fishing Permit for use of Sub Sea Sonics pop-up gear. Two other Experimental Fishing Permits to test pop-up gear are currently pending. Once the gear is shown to meet the criteria established by the Department, authorization as alternative gear would allow continued commercial Dungeness crab fishing during periods when the fishery is closed to conventional gear to protect wildlife from entanglements.