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California crab season cut short to protect whales

Posted at 6:02 PM, Apr 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-08 22:03:23-04

Crab season along the California coast is ending three months early this year.

The new rules come after a settlement was reached between the State of California and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Local crab fisherman Bob Maharry says after 45 seasons, the new rules cut deep.

“We were given no choice,” Maharry said. “Seventy percent of what I make is made after March 1st. It’s been like that for ten years.”

Maharry’s son, also in the crab fishing industry, is out of business.

“We’ve always said we’ll work it out, keep fishing, keep working. In all honesty, we may all be done,” Maharry added.

The Center for Biological Diversity says there’s been a record-breaking number of whales getting entangled in fishing gear off the California coast. They want to cut crab season short to avoid whale migration season.

“When the whales cross these (fishing) lines, it can wrap around their fins or their tail or get caught in their mouth. It cuts into their skin, it saps their energy, and eventually, they can drown and die,” said Steve Jones, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity.

The organization filed a lawsuit in 2017 in an effort to put an end to this problem after 71 whale entanglements were reported in 2016. According to NOAA, a preliminary count for 2018 showed 45 whale entanglements along the West Coast. Maharry argues it’s not just crab fishermen who are to blame for those numbers.

The settlement, establishing a shorter crab season, was announced March 2019. It also encourages the development of ropeless fishing gear. Fishermen who invest in the new technology will be able to continue crabbing after the end of the season.

Any area off the West Coast can also be temporarily closed if an endangered species is tangled in the area or if there is a large number of whales in a certain spot in the ocean.

“This is a big win for whales and all Californians who can now feel better about eating crab,” Jones said.