ODFW Seeks Comment on Draft Commercial Dungeness Crab Conservation Plan

Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking public comment on a draft conservation plan addressing marine life entanglement in the commercial Dungeness crab fishery along the Oregon coast.

The 30-day comment period began on Aug. 18 with the release of the draft plan online at the ODFW’s whale entanglement mitigation webpage. An informational virtual briefing is set for Sept. 17 before the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

ODFW has been working with industry and other partners for six years to address marine life entanglements in Oregon’s crab and other fisheries. The agency developed a proactive management strategy for the Oregon ocean commercial Dungeness crab fishery that is now documents in the draft plan. State officials said their vision is for co-existence of the commercial crab fishery and recovering of populations of humpback whales, blue whales and leatherback sea turtles in ocean waters off Oregon who are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

According to the draft executive summary of the plan, many parts of the strategy have already been implemented through regulations adopted by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The regulations are primarily intended to strengthen accountability to improve the information obtained from future entanglements and reduce risk of future entanglements by minimizing co-occurrence between ESA-listed species and crab gear.

A report released by the conservation entity Oceana notes federal fisheries data confirms that about 75% of all reported whale entanglements prove fatal. These deaths are particularly gruesome because the whales can drag the heavy fishing gear for months, hindering their ability to feed, resulting in malnutrition and death. Sea turtles suffer similar fates and may get anchored to the gear and drown.

While entanglements occur along the entire West Coast, the central coast of California has the greatest known concentrations of humpback whales, Pacific leatherback sea turtles and reported entanglements, the report said.

Those who would like to submit public comment in advance of the meeting should contact the crab management team via email at odfw.commission@odfw.oregon.gov. For further information contact Caren Braby, marine program manager, at Caren.E.Braby@odfw.oregon.gov or (541) 961-5352; Troy Buell, state fishery manager, Troy.V.Buell@odfw.oregon.gov, (541) 961-8135; or Kelly Corbett, commercial crab project leader, Kelly.C.Corbett@odfw.oregon.gov, (541) 270-5083.