Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Activists and Fishermen Team Up to Address Record Whale Entanglement

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Activists and Fishermen Team Up to Address Record Whale Entanglement

Article excerpt

Fishermen have long been at odds with wildlife experts who claim lobster and crab traps are killing whales. And unusually warm waters off the coast of California this year have already caused 60 whales to become entangled in offshore fishing gear.

In response to a 400 percent increase in whale entanglements this year, whale advocates and fishermen teaming up to find solutions that protect both whales and area fishermen whose livelihoods depend on traps in the sea.

Prevention strategies over the last twenty years haven't done much to help whales and only served to bankrupt the fisherman, says Geoff Shester, California campaign director for Oceana. This time around, wildlife advocates and fishermen are trying a new strategy: cooperation.

"We've got pots in the water, we've got ropes in the water and we've got whales in the water," crabber Jim Anderson told the Associated Press. "What can we do to make this a safe place for everybody?"

Wildlife experts have turned to realistic solutions that include fishermen in both prevention and in helping to assist animals that do become entangled. At a training session this fall, almost 100 crabbers learned how to photograph tangled whales and "babysit" them until the appropriate authorities arrived.

The crab industry off California has been temporarily postponed because of a massive bloom of toxic algae in the Pacific, but when the season resumes, scientists and fishermen plan to work together to test new types of rope and gear.

As The Christian Science Monitor reported in October, more than 300,000 whales, dolphins, and porpoises die as bycatch every year, either from drowning or from injuries sustained while struggling to escape. But the warm water in 2015 has posed an imminent threat for whales specifically.

"This time of year, the whales would be offshore but with the blob of warm water, they're right off the beach. …

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