Safe Passage

Along the California coast, endangered blue and humpback  whales, and leatherback sea turtles are accidentally entangled by crab trap lines set during the commercial Dungeness crab fishery operations.

Humpback whale entangled in crab gear

Entangled whales can carry heavy traps and buoys hundreds of miles, which interferes with breathing, restricts feeding and can lead to starvation.

Over the last three decades, 355 entangled whales were reported along the West Coast, with the majority reported from California. Nearly half of those reports occurred in the last five years, which shows a significant incidence increase. Reported whale entanglements represent just a small fraction of the actual number of entanglements.

confirmed entanglement reports 2000-2020

The number of confirmed entanglements by species reported to the West Coast Region each year from 2000 to 2020. (NOAA Fisheries report)


To date, to help mitigate whale entanglement in crab gear, a consortium of state and federal agencies, the  California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, and other stakeholders  have engaged in a number of management measures including lost gear retrieval and shortening of the fishing season.

A ropeless gear fishing system acceptable to Dungeness crab fishers would significantly reduce the entanglement threat. Bluecology’s Safe Passage Project — a collaborative, solution-based undertaking — will work to reduce, with the intended goal of ending, whale and sea turtle entanglements in crab fishing gear by developing a functional, scalable and affordable acoustically activated ropeless gear system.

The education component will include informal curriculum modules and project documentation by our cinematography production partner using state-of-the-art presentation technologies.

Great whales, among the largest animals ever to have lived on earth, play vital ecological roles in the oceans’ ecosystems.  Our goal is to find a comprehensive solution that will allow endangered whales and sea turtles and the crabbing industry to coexist in a safe manner.

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