Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 23, 2015

Contact: Kristen Monsell, (914) 806-3467,

California Moves to Keep Whales Out of Crab Gear

OAKLAND, Calif.— A state-convened working group is recommending a series of important initial steps toward reducing whale entanglements in crab gear in California, including more monitoring and retrieval of lost fishing gear. The Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group was convened in September after the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups found that whale entanglements in 2014 and 2015 had reached historic highs.

“It’s been heartbreaking to see so many humpback and gray whales tangled up in fishing lines along California’s coast,” said Kristen Monsell, a Center attorney who serves on the working group. “We’re glad to see the crab industry involved with finding solutions and these recommendations are a good first step.”

Commercial Dungeness crab season in California opens Nov. 15, so remedies requiring legislative or regulatory changes couldn’t be implemented before this season. The new short-term recommendations focus on training commercial crabbers to respond to whale entanglements, expanding the lost-gear recovery program, improving data collection, testing gear modifications (such as breakaway lines), and developing a best-practices guide.

The entanglement-response training program began Tuesday in Morro Bay, Half Moon Bay and Bodega Bay. This program and the other recommendations will be presented to the California Dungeness Crab Task Force at its meetings in Ukiah, Oct. 26-27. Long-term recommendations from the working group would build off new data collection efforts — identifying exactly when and where whales are becoming entangled, and in what type of gear — leading to better management measures in sensitive areas like whale migration routes.

“This is the beginning of the process, not the end,” said Monsell, a member of ongoing-implementation groups focusing on gear modifications and enhanced reporting. “We’ll hope for the best this season while we gather information on more permanent solutions. We’re looking forward to the day when this fishing gear is no longer a threat to whales swimming in California’s waters.”

The working group’s full recommendations can be read here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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