Crab Fishing Season Ends Early in California to Protect Whales and Sea Turtles

Along with ship strikes and oil spills, one of the biggest dangers to the whales and sea turtles migrating along the West Coast are the fishing lines that the commercial fishing industry submerges in the Pacific Ocean. The lines can become lodged in their mouths, making it difficult to eat. They can wrap around the animal’s flippers or tail, making it challenging to move. If the whale or turtle isn’t freed, they can starve to death or drown from the weight of the heavy gear.

From 2014 to 2017, the number of whale entanglements off the California coast broke records, prompting the environmental nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity to file a lawsuit against the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) two years ago.

One-third of the humpback whale entanglements were caused by crab fishing lines. Unlike the gear that other fishing industries use, Dungeness crabbing uses heavy traps that are set on the ocean floor and connected via lines to a buoy on the water’s surface. These slack lines can be like nooses for whales and sea turtles. The CDFW allows the Dungeness crabbing industry to set 174,025 of these traps in coastal waters every season.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity’s lawsuit, the CDFW, which issues fishing permits, fell short in preventing endangered humpback whales, blue whales and leatherback sea turtles from becoming entangled and killed in Dungeness crab fishing gear—which could lead to their extinction and is in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Two years later, a settlement has been reached, and it’s a big win for marine animals. The California Dungeness crab fishing season will end this year on April 15 instead of June 30. Next year and in 2021, the season will end on April 1. The Center for Biological Diversity will be monitoring areas where whales feed in the springtime to see if the Dungeness crabbing season should end even earlier.

At the same time, the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, which was convened by the CDFW and whose members include commercial fishermen and environmental organization representatives, is coming up with solutions to reduce entanglements, such as using ropeless gear.

“In my view, we can do right by our natural resources,” said Chuck Bonham, director of the CDFW, regarding the settlement. Kristen Monsell, attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said she thinks this is “a turning point that will get us to zero entanglement.”

In earlier good news for endangered humpback whales along the California coast, after nearly 130,000 people signed a Care2 petition urging him to do so, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Fisheries Omnibus Bill of 2018 into law last September. This law requires the CDFW to put into place new regulations that minimize the risk of commercial crab gear entanglements before November 2020.

And in previous good news for these whales, the Trump administration agreed last August to federally protect their critical habitat in the Pacific Ocean after the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups sued the government for leaving endangered whales vulnerable to fishing gear entanglements as well as ship strikes and oil spills.

The shortened Dungeness crab fishing season along with the Fisheries Ominibus Bill and the federal protection of whale habitat will help save a lot of lives off the California coast. Here’s hoping these measures will set a global precedent, protecting vulnerable marine life all around the world.

Photo credit: 12019

60 comments

Cindy M. D
Cindy M. Dabout a month ago

Great news for the whales. Many thanks to California and the Center for Biological Diversity whom I've supported for many years. A happy way to end my day. :)

SEND
Barbara S
Barbara Sabout a month ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
Leo C
Leo Cabout a month ago

Thank you for posting!

SEND
danii p
danii pabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

SEND
danii p
danii pabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

SEND
Michael F
Michael Fabout a month ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

SEND
Nicky H
Nicole Heindryckxabout a month ago

I can only join in the great happiness that Marine Live has won this battle. As said so many times already, when enough people sign petitions, we will win more battles. Money can not always win. And that's good news!! We have done more than enough to try to destroy our planet, and keep on doing so every day!! I really hope that the number of these whales and turtles will steadily grow. And when maintaining a shorter fishing period for the crabs, it will be to the benefit of the whales and turtles. Finally, many of us understand that ruining our planet and its wildlife animals are not the right thing to do. Are we reaching a turning point?? I hope so!!

SEND
Sherry K
Sherry Kohnabout a month ago

Many thanks to you !

SEND
Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara1 months ago

th

SEND
Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara1 months ago

sorry this was happening. Ireland protects all marine mammals in its waters

SEND