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.
Commercial fishermen say they can clean up earlier, but other changes could be contentious.
“Our primary goal is to have gear in Oregon’s waters marked so we can identify which fisheries may be coming into contact with whales,” said Elizabeth Perotti, assistant project leader of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shellfish program. “Right now we’re just in a tracking process of being able to identify which gear may be coming into contact with whales and when.”
Officials say Oregon has also applied for a federal permit allowing fishermen to take a small number of whales each year while fishing.
However, this would not legalize whale hunting. If a whale becomes entangled during commercial fishing, it counts as a take. This permit would allow a prescribed level of incidental takes.
“These regulations will help us make sure that all of Oregon’s fishing gear are marked,” said Perotti, “that will help us better track where and when fishing gear is out in the ocean and in Oregon’s estuaries.”
If approved, the regulations are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020.
KOIN 6 News contributed to this report.