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Whales And Turtles Could Be Protected From Entanglement Under New Conservation Plan


The plan aims to keep endangered wildlife like the humpback whale from getting entangled in fishing gear off of the Oregon coast, specifically in Oregon’s Dungeness crab fishery.

A new conservation plan to protect turtles and whales from entanglement has been released by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Getting entangled in fishing gear is often deadly for these animals. When whales get caught in the vertical fishing lines that attach the buoys to the crab pot, their fins and flukes get wrapped up in the ropes. It can take them up to 6 months until their injuries from these lines ultimately kill them. The rope can cause severed appendages or lead the whale to starvation because they are not able to dive to catch their prey.

Now, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has released a draft of a conservation plan. Ben Enticknap, a senior scientist with environmental group Oceana, explains the basics of the plan.

“Every Spring, deeper waters off the Oregon Coast will be closed to dungeness crab year to prevent entanglements with humpback whales,” says Enticknap. “And it also includes a reduction in the amount of fishing efforts that can occur, so theres a 20% reduction in pots that can be set, starting on may 1 each year.”

One innovative solution that’s being suggested is called pop up crab pots, that use buoys on the ocean floor instead of ropes in the water column. Pop up crab pots use acoustic release technology that releases the buoy on the ocean floor when a button is pushed. One problem though, according to Enticknap, is that the conservation plan does not include any financial incentives to crab fisherman for using pop up technology.

The plan has been released for public comment for 30 days, ending on September 16th.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.