Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The commercial harvest of Dungeness crab off the North Coast and Central California has once again been delayed due to large groups of federally protected humpback whales still foraging in the fishing grounds.
They’re fewer in number than in late October, when state Fish and Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham first hit pause on the season’s start. But the whales still remain at concentrations high enough to raise the risk of ensnaring them in fishing gear if the fleet were to deploy the thousands of traps used each season.
The whales also exceed thresholds established three years ago to more closely manage the commercial fishery in a way that reduces entanglement of marine mammals protected under the Endangered Species Act — notably blue and humpback whales and leatherback sea turtles.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/california-commercial-dungeness-crab-harvest-again-delayed-to-safeguard-wha/
Katharine Gammon, THE GUARDIAN
New study shows marine heat wave was causing marine life to cluster in an area that made feeding dangerous
When humpback whales began to appear in large numbers off the California coast in 2015 and 2016, people celebrated the comeback of the whales after a near-miss with extinction.
However, the excitement was quickly met with new worries – the whales increasingly got caught up in fishermen’s crab ropes. By 2016, there were more than 50 recorded entanglements that left whales injured or killed. Whales got ropes tangled around their mouths, making it difficult for them to eat. Crab lines cut through tissue and caused infections.
Although whales and fishing had coexisted for decades, this was a new problem. So what was driving it?
A new study published in the journal Nature Communications points at climate breakdown as a factor in the mass entanglements.
When the situation was unfolding in 2015 and 2016, it surprised most people, but not Jarrod Santora, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the lead author of the paper.
Santora was studying the ecosystem effects of the marine heat wave, known as “the blob”, that was happening off the coast of California at the time. Heat waves alter the ocean’s upwelling – the process in which deep, cold, nutrient-rich water rises to the surface. The upwelling in 2015 and 2016 shrunk to just a narrow band along the coast, causing organisms to cluster there. Due to a heatwave-related decline in krill, whales switched to feeding on anchovies in shallower and shallower waters. In addition, the crab fishing season – an $88m industry on the US west coast – had been delayed from November to April, and came to coincide with the whales’ presence.
Read more at
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Acidification of the world’s oceans was supposed to be a distant problem — nothing to worry about until some time in the future.
But a new study of juvenile Dungeness crab collected off the Pacific Northwest coast shows the crustaceans are vulnerable to conditions that exist right now.
Published last week in the journal “Science of The Total Environment,” the study found that tiny developing crabs sampled from coastal waters off Oregon and Washington suffered damage to their shells as well as to bristly, hairlike sensory organs believed to help them orient to their surroundings.
The findings have unsettling implications for a roughly $200 million West Coast fishery — California’s most valuable ocean crop and a key economic driver for struggling fishing ports on the North and Central Coast.
The California fleet caught more than $47 million worth of Dungeness crab last year, including nearly $5 million worth of crustaceans landed in Bodega Bay.
The new research, said veteran Bodega Bay fishermen Tony Anello, sounds “very discouraging.”
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10644113-181/rising-ocean-acidity-bad-news