ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) — Oregon wildlife officials have proposed new regulations to avoid entangling whales in commercial fishing gear used by the state's Dungeness crab industry.
The Daily Astorian reports state fishery officials presented recommendations to avoid unwanted whale interactions to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission during a June meeting.
Officials say there were 12 cases of entangled whales as of July 16, half associated with commercial fishing and a third with commercial crabbing.
Fisheries say recommendations include new gear identification tags and equipment cleanup requirements before the season's end, eliminating a two-week, postseason grace period.
Officials say Oregon has also applied for a federal permit allowing fishermen to take a small number of whales each year while fishing.
The bulk of the whales found tangled in fishing gear on the West Coast are reported off California, but gear from all three states has been implicated.
Pulling gear earlier than usual "is something everybody seems OK to live with," said Clint Funderburg, vice president and director of the Oregon Coast Crab Association, a group of commercial fishermen that formed this year in response to the debate around crab gear and whales. "It's something that's doable."
Other changes — such as gear modification or further limiting entry into the fishery — could be more contentious, he said.
Along with California and Washington state, Oregon has begun the process of applying for an incidental take permit from the federal government, a lengthy process that, if successful, would allow crab fishermen to lawfully take a small number of endangered whales each year in the course of fishing.
"But the hardest conversation is moving into what we do with our fishery in terms of lines that are in the water and making those count and reducing them where they don't count," Caren Braby, a marine resources program manager for the state, told the whale entanglement working group at a meeting last week.