Thurs 3/25: “AB-534 Fishing: ropeless fishing gear” – dullest title ever for life-saving legislation.

Call your CA assemblymember to pass this bill to protect our whales and other marine mammals.

This video specifically references North Atlantic right whales, but the harm caused by traditional fishing gear to our own whales and other marine animals is exactly the same. And unnecessary.

On April 8th, the CA State Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife, including our newly-elected Assemblymember Steve Bennett, will meet for the first time this year on an agenda that includes AB-534 Fishing: ropeless fishing gear. The technology to protect our sea mammals from increasingly frequent rope entanglements and slow painful deaths already exists, and it has proven benefits for the fishing industry as well. So, please reach out to your own state assemblymember, and/or to the committee itself, to tell them that we want this bill to pass.

  • Minimal call script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Assemblymember [__] to support AB-534 Fishing: ropeless fishing gear. (Add in any personal experiences you have with sea mammals…)
  • Letter to the committee: Must be submitted by March 30, at 12:00 noon. Instructions here.

Deeper Dive

#1 = traditional roped system, #2 = “Ropeless” system. Ropeless gear would eliminate the biggest threat to right whales’ survival, and the technology is ready today. Illustration by Eric Taylor, WHOI Graphic Services

(Excerpt from proposed legislation)

(d) Due to changing ocean conditions and other factors, entanglements in commercial and recreational trap fishing gear are harming California’s marine life, including threatened and endangered whales and sea turtles. When a whale gets tangled up in fishing gear, it can drown because it cannot reach the surface to breathe. Entanglements also cause whales to suffer painful injuries or die lingering deaths when ropes wrap through their mouths or around their tails and flippers, cutting into their flesh and bones, and impairing their ability to feed or swim. The stress suffered from an entanglement can prevent a whale from reproducing. Sea turtles and other animals can also suffer similar fates.

(e) Reports of whales entangled in buoys and lines used in California fisheries dramatically increased starting in 2014. The federal government documented 71 reported entanglements off the West Coast of the United States in 2016, the highest annual total for the region since the federal government started keeping records in 1982. Reported entanglements continue to occur, including in California’s commercial and recreational Dungeness crab trap fisheries, commercial and recreational spot prawn trap fisheries, spiny lobster fisheries, and other fisheries. The actual number of entanglements is likely much higher than what is reported as many entanglements are unobserved.

(f) Following several years of record-breaking numbers of entanglements reported off California, the Department of Fish and Wildlife enacted regulations to reduce the number of threatened and endangered blue whales, humpback whales, and leatherback sea turtles getting entangled in commercial Dungeness crab gear. However, those regulations do not fully eliminate entanglement risk; rely on nearly constant data collection and analyses to inform the implementation of potential risk-reduction measures; may only trigger management actions after entanglements occur; rely on closures, including delaying the start of the season or ending it early, as the primary way to reduce risk; and create uncertainty for fishers about where and when they will be able to fish.

(g) Trap and pot fisheries in California and around the world still utilize 19th Century fishing technologies when 21st Century solutions such as ropeless gear are available. Ropeless gear, also known as “on-demand” or “buoyless” gear, is the only way to eliminate entanglement risk while permitting fishing to continue. The gear allows traps on the seafloor to be remotely called to the surface and removes the static vertical lines in the water column that entangle whales, sea turtles, and other animals.

(h) Given the harmful impacts of entanglements on a variety of marine species and the economic harm closures can cause on commercial fishers, requiring the use of ropeless fishing in all trap and pot fisheries managed by California should be required as soon as practicable.

(i) Varieties of ropeless fishing gear are available and being tested off the West and East Coasts of the United States and in Canada. Some fishers already fish without the use of static vertical buoy lines. However, logistical, technical, cost, and regulatory obstacles have hampered the widespread adoption of such gear in California fisheries.

(j) Numerous state and federal regulatory schemes, such as those relating to vehicle fuel economy and energy efficiency, use implementation deadlines to spur innovation and drive market forces towards better, less expensive, and more effective and efficient technologies. A date-certain requirement for the implementation of ropeless gear would spur such innovation and overcome obstacles to its adoption.

(k) California is a national and global leader in technological innovation, including green technology. By requiring the use of ropeless gear, California can be a leader in helping to develop and promote sustainable fishing gear that could be used to save whales, sea turtles, and other animals here and around the world.

Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee Members

Ours is in RED. Do you see yours on this list?

  • Eduardo Garcia (Chair) D-56
  • Megan Dahle (Vice Chair) R-01
  • Frank Bigelow R-05
  • Laura Friedman D-43
  • Cristina Garcia D-58
  • Ash Kalra D-27
  • Marc Levine D-10
  • Al Muratsuchi D-66
  • Janet Nguyen R-72
  • Blanca E. Rubio D-48
  • Rudy Salas, Jr. D-32
  • Thurston “Smitty” Smith R-33
  • Carlos Villapudua D-13
  • Christopher M. Ward.

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