Record number of whales were entangled off California coast because of crab fishing, lawsuit says – Orange County Register

For three straight years records have been set in a sad statistic — the number of whales entangled in fishing lines off the West Coast. Last year, the new record was 71 whales. 

Now an environmental non-profit intends wants to take legal steps to change the pattern. The Center for Biological Diversity on Friday filed a letter with the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife claiming crab traps are killing endangered humpback and blue whales and leatherback sea turtles. The Tuscon-based group says it plans to file a lawsuit against the agency, which is responsible for oversight and permitting of the commercial crab industry, arguing that the Dungeness crab business is responsible for tangling most whales and sea turtles and the state isn’t doing its part in preventing those deaths.

“We really want there to be some regulations that will protect the whales,” said Catherine Kilduff, a senior attorney for the center.

Some changes the group wants include: New rules that would prohibit crab boats from letting excess line float on the surface (where whales sometimes are entangled), and requiring boats to better maintain their working gear so lines don’t break free and entangle whales.

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