Please select your home edition
Highfield Boats - Power - LEADERBOARD

Whale entanglement causes and solutions detailed in new report

by NOAA Fisheries 9 Nov 2018 02:05 PST
A humpback whale entangled in fishing gear surfaces for air about two miles off Crescent City, California. Disentanglement teams working with local fishermen and others freed the whale on Tuesday July 19, 2017. © Bryant Anderson / NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Fisheries MMHSRP Permit# 18786-01

Whale entanglements off the West Coast and potential solutions to the escalating problem are the focus of a new report including the presentations and observations of fishermen, biologists, and fisheries managers who gathered at an August workshop on the subject.

In recent years, growing populations of humpback and gray whales, changing ocean conditions and prey locations, and later crab season openings have led to more whales becoming entangled in fishing gear, such as the ropes and floats that mark the location of crab pots. In 2017 there were 31 confirmed entanglements off the West Coast. While these entanglements are still proportionally rare, they sometimes lead to the deaths of entangled whales, so both fishermen and fisheries managers are seeking solutions.

To understand how and where rope and other gear entangles whales and to find ways to address the problem, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) and NOAA Fisheries' West Coast Region convened a two-day workshop in Long Beach, California, in August. This "forensic workshop" was also supported by The Marine Mammal Commission, Oregon Sea Grant, and the Aquarium of the Pacific. The report from the workshop is now available.

The report provides the notes and presentations from the 31 California, Oregon, and Washington experts who attended. Participating were Dungeness crab fishermen; gear specialists; marine mammal biologists and disentanglement specialists; conservation groups; and federal, tribal, and state agency representatives.

Participants reviewed the best practices documents each state has developed in light of forensic review information presented, discussed possible improvements in gear marking that would help better identify entangling gear, and discussed potential gear modifications or research that might help reduce the number of entanglements.

NOAA Fisheries' Dan Lawson explained that, "Though the workshop did not seek consensus from the participants, there were a number of things that seemed to have broad participant support." For example, there was strong support for establishing a repository where gear removed from entangled whales could be stored after evaluation. "Fishermen really wanted to continue to engage with the whale experts on this forensic review work. They saw real value in this," he said.

Other actions that could help minimize whale entanglements were discussed, including:

  • improving gear markings, and coordination between the states, to better identify the origins of gear involved in entanglements;
  • exploring alternative ways to connect buoys and lines on the gear to minimize the use of knots and splices, especially on upper portions of gear where entanglements appear to often occur;
  • assuring wider dissemination of the best practices guidelines that address the use and scope of vertical lines and other ideas to commercial and recreational fisherman; and
  • working to better understand the physics related to the tension and drag forces of gear components, and how those forces may relate to entanglements.
Participants also expressed interest in a gear innovation developed by fishermen in the lobster fishery on the East Coast. This involves a hollow sleeve around lines to help avoid knots and splices that get caught up in the whales' baleen and create a weaker spot in the line that the whales could break.

Fran Recht, PSMFC Whale Entanglement Reduction Program manager, works with fishermen to test gear innovations. "We had 10 fishermen, some from each state, come forward to test this idea. They have to make sure it is practical, holds up well under use and works within existing operations, but it looks promising as-is or could be adapted to better fit West Coast conditions," she said.

For more information:

Related Articles

What is 1-2-3 Rule used for hurricane avoidance?
During the hurricane season its good to be reminded of the mariner's 1-2-3 Rule The 1-2-3 Rule is means of avoiding winds associated with a tropical cyclone by taking into account the forecast track error of the National Weather Service over a 10 year period which is approximately 100 nm in 24 hours, 200 nm for 48 hours Posted on 30 Aug 2019
Help right whales: give them space
Learn how to keep right whales safe by staying at least 500 yards away NOAA scientists, resource managers, and partners are coordinating closely to solve this urgent conservation challenge. We need to do everything we can to ensure their survival. Posted on 9 Mar 2019
Watch out for whales around Cape Cod
New voluntary vessel speed restriction zone established around Cape Cod Bay to protect right whales A voluntary vessel speed restriction zone (Dynamic Management Area - DMA) has been established around Cape Cod Bay to protect an aggregation of six right whales sighted in this area. Posted on 13 Dec 2018
Watching for right whales more important than ever
NOAA and partners ask the public to give whales space during annual pilgrimage south With an unprecedented 20 right whale deaths documented in 2017 and 2018, NOAA is cautioning boaters to give these endangered whales plenty of room as they migrate south. Posted on 25 Nov 2018
What causes seasickness?
A conflict in the inner ear and the erratic motion of a vessel Seasickness results from a conflict in the inner ear and the erratic motion of a vessel. Posted on 29 Oct 2018
Vulnerable killer whales need extra space
PWWA, Soundwatch, and NOAA Fisheries call for extra space for vulnerable and pregnant whales To further protect endangered Southern Resident killer whales, NOAA Fisheries' West Coast Region is joining the PWWA and The Whale Museum's Soundwatch Boater Education Program in asking boaters to give extra space to vulnerable whales Posted on 11 Oct 2018
Sea turtle safe handling and release gear outreach
FB18-054 Gulf of Mexico Fishery Bulletin NOAA Fisheries requires sea turtle safe handling and release gear be on board federally permitted commercial and for-hire vessels in the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery. Posted on 16 Aug 2018
Councils launch Northeast Offshore Wind page
The Councils worked closely with NOAA Fisheries on this collaborative effort New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils launched a new webpage that's designed to serve as a repository for information relevant to offshore wind development activities in the Northeast Region. Posted on 14 Jul 2018
Watch out for whales South of Nantucket
Voluntary vessel speed restriction zone established to protect a group of right whales NOAA Fisheries announces that a voluntary vessel speed restriction zone (Dynamic Management Area or DMA) has been established to protect a group of four right whales sighted two nautical miles south of Nantucket on June 30, 2018. Posted on 14 Jul 2018
Well-meaning balloons turn into deadly trash
If you wouldn't throw a soda can out of your car window, then rethink releasing balloons. While releasing balloons have come to symbolize hopes, dreams, and good wishes for the future, every balloon released during celebrations comes down as trash, with grave potential to injure or kill wildlife. Posted on 15 Jun 2018
Highfield Boats - Power - FOOTERMarina Exchange FOOTER 1Marine Resources 2019 - Footer