(Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Environmental groups concerned about whale safety as Dungeness crab season launches

As Dungeness crab season finally launches, the Center for Biological Diversity is appealing to fisherman to be cautious of their gear, so as not to negatively impact California’s whale population.

Safe practices outlined by the environmental group include maintaining taut trap lines, employing no more than one trailer buoy in shallow waters, and the avoidance of gear-setting in areas where whales have been spotted.

SEE RELATED: Coastal closure announced ahead of commercial crab season start

The recommendations come after growing rates of whale entanglements in recent years. The Center for Biological Diversity reported that 62 whale entanglements took place in 2015, up from 30 in 2014. So far, 61 whale entanglements have been reported for 2016. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has seen the highest rates of entanglements along the coast so far.

“It’s incredibly sad that we’ll likely see yet another year of record-breaking numbers of whales getting tangled up in fishing gear off California’s coast. This tragic, growing trend has to be reversed,” stated Kristen Monsell, a Center attorney on the working group. “We’re glad the crab industry is involved with trying to prevent this problem and urge fishermen to implement common-sense gear modifications to help prevent even more whale entanglements this season.”

Recreational Dungeness crab fishing launched on November 5th, after concerns about toxic algae blooms were allayed. Commercial Dungeness crab fishing opens along the coast bordering San Francisco Bay, Monterey Bay and Morro Bay on November 15th. The stretch of water between Point Reyes and the Sonoma/Mendocino County line remains closed due to high levels of toxic algae.

SEE RELATED: State officials optimistic for Dungeness crab season

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