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Crabbers Help Decrease Whale Entanglements

Recreational crab gear in the ocean and bays must be marked to clearly identify the owner. Photo by ODFW

ODFW marine biologists and fishery managers continue their work to decrease whale entanglements in crabbing gear with good success. The frequency of entanglements has lessened over the last few years across the West Coast. However, a recreational fisherman recently spotted a dead orca with crabbing gear wrapped around its tail about 25 miles off Newport.

Caren Braby says it is unknown if the orca was dead prior to being entangled or died because it was entangled in the crab gear. Braby, who leads ODFW's Marine Resources Program said it is also unclear in which state or what coastal area the gear was from. The dead orca was spotted a second time near the mouth of the Coquille River, and fishermen recovered the gear. Both ODFW and Oregon State University examined and evaluated the gear.

"The gear wasn't marked with the owner's identity, so it is not legal gear as per Oregon regulations. In fact, the gear is not consistent with regulations in Washington or California either," Braby said. "The recovered gear had a sport-type crab pot and was relatively unfouled, suggesting it was deployed recently." Recreational crab pots or rings used in the open ocean water and bays must have surface buoys for buoyancy so the gear can be retrieved. By regulation, the buoys must be marked with the owners first and last name or business name and at least one of the following: permanent address, phone number, ODFW ID number or vessel identification number.

The information must be visible, legible, and permanent. This regulation does not apply to recreational crabbing from piers, jetties, or the beach where the pot is attached to shore while it is fishing. Marked surface buoys help managers identify which fisheries and areas along the coast are associated with marine life entanglements. More importantly, proper marking of buoys and floats helps managers develop ways to prevent entanglements in the future.

See ODFW's marine life entanglement webpage to find out more about ODFW's efforts to reduce entanglements.

Report entangled whales or other marine animals to NOAA Fisheries' Entanglement Reporting Hotline 1-877-SOS-WHAL (1-877-767-9425) or the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF CH-16. Photographs and videos showing entangled gear is helpful as is a general location and species if known. Check NOAA Fisheries entangled whale reporting brochure for more information. Contact: Caren Braby, 541-961-5352, caren.e.braby@odfw.oregon.gov

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