Along the California coast, endangered blue, humpback whales, and leatherback sea turtles are accidentally entangled by crab trap lines set during the commercial Dungeness crab fishery operations.
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.
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 — is working 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. We are collaborating with a highly respected engineering firm that specializes in the design, development, and production of complex, highly integrated technology-based underwater acoustic systems.
The education component includes 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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