Conservation & Science

Reeling in a major cause of whale entanglement

Calder Deyerle is on a conference call. But while other participants sit in office chairs, Deyerle is miles out at sea on his 28-foot boat. Freshly caught fish, in a bucket at his feet, are flopping loudly enough to be heard on the call.

Calder_boat
Fisherman Calder Deyerle fishes for rockfish off the Big Sur coast. Photo by Monterey Bay Aquarium/Presley Adamson

During crab season, Deyerle says, he works what feels like 24 hours a day—going home only to shower, eat and see his family. Even when he watches TV, he keeps his hands busy mending gear. Serving on the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, which led to the conference call, is what he calls one of his “extracurricular activities.”

But it serves a practical purpose: preserving a fishery, and a way of life, that’s been in his family for generations. And it’s helping protect one of the ocean’s most magnificent animals, too.

A migration menace

In recent years, crabbing gear has entangled whales, mostly humpbacks, with alarming frequency. In 2016 there were 71 reported entanglements along the U.S. West Coast—the most since the federal government began keeping records in ’82. Twenty-two of those were confirmed to be related to the Dungeness crab fishery.
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Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust: Preserving local catch for local fishermen

Today marks another big moment in the ongoing comeback of the West Coast groundfish fishery – and of commercial fishing in Monterey Bay.

The Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust has announced the acquisition of $1 million in commercial quota in the fishery from The Nature Conservancy. This means the fishing rights for this important resource stay with local Monterey Bay fisherman and  continue to benefit the community. It also means that regional chefs and restaurants will be able to easily source and serve up a taste of Monterey Bay to their customers.

Fishermen like Monterey's Joe Pennisi will have access to quota to catch groundfish in Monterey Bay. Photo courtesy Alan Lovewell.
Fishermen like Monterey’s Joe Pennisi will have access to quota to catch groundfish in Monterey Bay. Photo courtesy Alan Lovewell.

“Thanks to The Nature Conservancy’s addition, the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust will be able to support our local, family-owned fishing businesses,” said David Crabbe, commercial fisherman and board president of the Trust. “This will provide stability for our local ports and waterfront businesses, and it will ensure that future fishermen have access to this important fishery for years to come.”

This might not have been the case, though, if  not for the collective efforts of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the City of Monterey, and community leaders who worked to establish the new nonprofit organization.  The Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust was created to guarantee a future for stable and sustainable fisheries and fishing communities around the bay.

Locally caught rockfish and other groundfish will be available to Monterey area seafood lovers.
Locally caught rockfish and other groundfish will be available to Monterey area seafood lovers.

In 2011, a new fishery management program, called catch shares, went into effect for 90 species of the West Coast groundfish fishery (such as sablefish, petrale sole, and rockfish) as part of the conservation effort that led to the fishery’s recovery.  Since catch shares can be bought and sold, large, well-capitalized businesses from outside the region could have potentially outbid local fishermen for the quota. Without access to quota, small-scale fishermen would be unable to land groundfish out of Monterey Bay. The community would miss out on the economic, social, and environmental benefits that result from a local, sustainably managed fishery.

Thanks to the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust, this won’t happen now. It will acquire the quotas and hold them in trust for the community, helping keep long-time fishing families in business, and ensuring a future for the next generation of fishermen.

“Our future depends on the health of the ocean,” said Margaret Spring, the aquarium’s vice president of conservation and science and chief conservation officer. Spring also serves as vice president of the Fisheries Trust board. “We hope others in our community will contribute to the remarkable recovery of the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery by purchasing local, sustainably caught groundfish, and supporting this innovative effort to advance both economic opportunity and ocean conservation.”

Learn more about The Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust.

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