Fishing seasons for crabs and lobsters are being shortened due to concerns about whales getting entangled in fishing gear ropes. State regulators closed the Dungeness crab season two months early in San Francisco this year because of humpback whales in the area.
Fishermen are testing a potential solution called “pop-up” fishing gear, which keeps the rope and buoy stowed on the ocean floor until they retrieve it. The gear has the potential to benefit both fishermen and whales, but technical issues and the high cost of the equipment need to be addressed. Fishermen are hesitant to adopt the gear due to fears of increased regulation. Whales, particularly North Atlantic right whales, are at risk of entanglement, and the lobster industry has already faced closures.
Efforts are being made to develop universal technical standards for the gear, and the federal government is investing in funding and resources to address the issue. Pop-up gear is currently being used voluntarily by fishermen, but wider acceptance and implementation will take time.