San Diego/ Parks & Nature
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Published on March 02, 2024
California Allocates $1.85 Million to Unveil 'Ropeless' Crab Traps, Aiding Marine Life and FishermenSource: Gillfoto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) is tossing a lifeline to the state's Dungeness crab industry and the whales that frequent its waters to balance marine conservation with commercial interests. The OPC has earmarked $1.85 million to combat the ongoing threat of whale and sea turtle entanglements in fishing gear, as stated in a press release from the OPC and reported by Oceana.

These funds are destined for various initiatives, including the rollout of innovative 'ropeless' crab traps designed to eliminate the need for dangerous vertical lines. To protect wildlife, the OPC has authorized $450,000 to bolster a gear library, which will house this cutting-edge equipment for testing and practical use. These traps sit on the ocean floor and are virtually hidden from unsuspecting whales and sea turtles, ready to spring into action only when summoned by fishermen. As reported by the California Ocean Protection Council, the approved funds are set to usher in a new wave of eco-friendly fishing practices.

Despite ongoing delays in the past to the crab season due to these environmental hazards, with a kickoff as late as January 18 this year, this novel approach looks to keep both the industry and the ocean's gentle giants swimming in safer waters. The move seems as timely as ever, particularly when you consider the cause of recent season delays shifting from toxic algae blooms a decade ago to the present hazard posed by conventional rope-laden traps," SFist has tallied.

Geoff Shester, Oceana's California campaign director and senior scientist, couldn't understate the importance of the gear, telling Oceana, “Ropeless gear is part of California’s crab fishing future, one where consumers can know they’re enjoying ‘whale-safe crab’ and fishermen can catch crab more often and with far less risk to ocean wildlife.” The sentiment was echoed by Bart Chadwick, CEO of Sub Sea Sonics, who oversees the testing and manufacturing of the new gear. He expressed sincere gratitude to the OPC for fostering the comeback of the spring Dungeness crab fishery, brimming with optimism about the cohabitation of crab boats and whales in the upcoming season.

These funding initiatives also aim at improving gear tracking and enforcement, with up to $200,000 allocated for developing a ropeless fishing management portal and $1,000,000 earmarked for producing distinctly marked lines to differentiate California's crab fishing apparatus from other trap fisheries, in a strategy that dances on the delicate line between ecological protection and economic sustainability.