Derelict Fishing Gear Continues To Raise Concerns

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Posted by on September 08, 2008 at 21:52:01:

On 28 August, the State of Californiaís Wildlife Conservation Board awarded a $400,000 grant to UC Davis to fund a program to remove fishing gear from public piers and the open ocean. The "California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Program" will remove recreational fishing debris from public piers from Imperial Beach in San Diego to Santa Cruz and remove lost or abandoned fishing gear from the open ocean (mostly crab pots) as well. The program will use divers, sidescan sonar, and unmanned submersibles to locate and remove the lost gear over the next two years.

The problem of derelict fishing gear has gained increased salience in recent years. A five year survey of wildlife rescue groups found that derelict fishing gear caused injuries to 100 sea lions and 1,000 brown pelicans and sea gulls. The recent report of a humpback whale entanglement in crab gear off of the Farallon Islands has underscored the need to prevent wildlife contact with fishing gear and the need to remove the derelict gear that has accumulated over the years (see Sublegals 14:14/01).

Part of the problem for crab gear in California is the lack of a law that would limit the number of crab pots an individual fisherman can use. The State of Oregon adopted a crab pot limit of three tiers (200, 300, and 500) depending on historic landings. Their pot limit is designed to improve safety in the fishery, improve market conditions, and limit the impact on the ocean and wildlife. In California many boats routinely fish with well over 500 pots, in some cases close to 1,000 pots. In past years PCFFA sponsored two crab bills to establish crab trap limits that were vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger at the behest of the Department of Fish & Game (which didnít want to enforce trap limits) and Oregon-based processor Pacific Seafood.

Programs to remove fishing lost fishing gear are part of the solution; however, better management of recreational and commercial fisheries can limit many of the losses. PCFFA has pushed for different measures, such as crab trap limits, to prevent excess fishing gear losses. For more information see a 31 August Paul Rogers article in The San Jose Mercury News www.mercurynews.com/ci_10348182. For more information about the Wildlife Conservation Board go to www.wcb.ca.gov. For information about Oregonís crab trap limit program go to www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/crab_pot.

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