Citing whale entanglements, an environmental group petitioned federal regulators Thursday, seeking wholesale changes in how crab, shrimp and lobster are caught. But fishing industry reps claim the proposal may be financially untenable and make a dangerous job, more risky.
Filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service seeks to phase out traditional crab pots, with their lines and floating buoys within five years.
Mike Conroy of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Associations, said the proposal goes too far. "It's using a firehose to put out a matchstick."
Whales, sea turtles and other marine life do get trapped in gear...105 whale entanglements were reported nationally in 2018. And while seven of those occurred in California waters, according to the Bodega Bay Fisherman's Marketing Association, that's not bad considering 174,000 crab pots are cast in California waters.
The center says these entanglements can be nearly eliminated with newer, high tech gear.
According to Conroy though, the new gadgets still have kinks. "They wouldn't deploy at all times, and these were not the time release ones, but rather these were the acoustic based rope-less gear systems. Fishermen would get near where he or she dropped the pot over the side, push the little button and the trap wouldn't deploy."
That's an issue, an acoustic trap cost about ten times a traditional one. Though the time release style are more affordable, they can drift away before the fishing boat arrives.
Safety is also among Conroy's concerns. Without buoys, traps could get yanked up by trawlers, possibly causing injury or even capsizing a boat.
He said the economics of crab fishing are tenuous. With seasons regularly shortened by regulators, individual fishermen and women already face tough choices.
"The fishery that used to start on November 15th is now delayed, and you've got a smaller window to catch what you need to catch, it kind of forces them to fish in conditions they wouldn't, because they have to try to squeeze in a six month season into three months now."