Everything You’ve Heard About “Ropeless” Crab Fishing Gear Is Wrong – Times-Standard
Are so-called “ropeless” fishing gear the silver bullet to the perceived problem of marine mammal interactions in California’s crab fisheries?
Several for-profit environmental groups, including Oceana, would like the public and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to believe him.
However, there is no reliable data to support this claim. Marine mammal populations are simply not at significant risk from crabbing gear.
Yet these groups are stepping up their efforts to force California’s historic and economically most important fishery — which generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year for working families — into adopting expensive, impractical and unusable new fishing gear. which would force most crab fishermen out of business. .
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) scientist Francine Kershaw erroneously claimed that “Off the west coast, the number of humpback whale deaths from entanglements is now high enough that the population is declining.
In truth, there have only been four mortalities attributed to commercial CA Dungeness crab gear since 2013, and none in the past two seasons.
By comparison, large ship strikes cause around 50 to 150 whale deaths a year off the west coast, according to the Cascadia Research Collective (CRC), a well-respected center for the study of marine mammals.
In fact, the most recent CRC report from March 2020 shows that through the end of 2018 there were over 5,000 blue and humpback whales off the coasts of California and Oregon. This is well above the previously thought figure of 3,500 and far from dangerous levels.
Meanwhile, Ms. Kershaw, blindsided by the millions of dollars thrown at her by non-fishing special interests, has also attacked lobster fishermen on the East Coast, falsely saying: ‘…entanglements lead to l extinction the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. .”
However, the Maine lobster fishery has never had a serious injury or documented mortality for any right whale, and no entanglement since 2002, making it a non-issue.
“No rope” equipment does not work, is dangerous
One of the problems with “ropeless” gear is that it’s a misleading term used by for-profit environmental groups to make it seem harmless. The East Coast lobster fishery – home to thousands of independent small-scale fishermen – has revealed many operational issues with this gear. More importantly, the buoy lines are wrapped above the trap with an acoustic trigger which, in theory, allows the buoy to rise to the surface when activated. In practice, this adds to the problem of lost gear with ropes and buoys attached. It is far more dangerous to marine life as it unnecessarily litters the ocean with stray lines and other gear.
Ropeless equipment is prohibitively expensive
Currently, fishing traps cost between $160 and $225 each. But pop-up “ropeless” gear will cost up to $2,500 per trap. This means that for a 500 trap level operation to adapt an existing gear allocation to 100% pop-up gear, it would cost between $360,000 and $1,255,000.
All that extra money would be invested in gear that is extremely slow and liable to be lost at sea. This would make profit impossible. Most importantly, it would make marine mammal interactions with lost gear more frequent, not less.
The “no-rope” gear and other new rules that the CDFW will pass into law in a few months are a solution in search of a problem. These proposals pushed by outside interests need to be seriously reconsidered to reflect the negligible impact of the CA crab fishery on whales, its cultural and economic importance to our coastal communities, and the potentially devastating consequences of the implementation of “cableless” machines.
In sum, if the CDFW does not ignore political pressure from for-profit environmental groups, the continued crab fishery in California – and the thousands of families who depend on it – and indeed the future of the entire West Coast commercial fishing industry, will be seriously threatened.
Ben Platt is a longtime crab fisherman and president of the California Coast Crab Assoc. and Kristan Porter is a lobster fisherman and president of the Maine Lobster Association. More information at www.cacoastcrabassociation.org and www.mainelobstermen.org.