An increase in marine life entanglements has occurred in recent years along the U.S. West Coast relative to rates recorded prior to 2013. Commercial Dungeness crab fishing gear collectively makes up the largest portion of identifiable gear found in West Coast entanglement cases (NOAA 2021). Large whale and marine turtle species are among those most impacted by fishing gear entanglements off the West Coast, and these animals are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and/or the Endangered Species Act. To bring the fishery into compliance with federal regulations and reduce its impact on protected marine species moving forward, WDFW has committed to submitting an Incidental Take Permit application and working with the Washington Dungeness crab industry to develop an accompanying Conservation Plan (CP).
This CP will guide the Department’s work toward securing a vibrant, thriving future for both the crab fishery and for recovering whale and turtle populations. WDFW has a demonstrated record of utilizing a precautionary approach to managing the coastal Dungeness crab fishery, as evidenced by the limited number of licenses issued to participate in the fishery, the restricted growth of vessel size within the fleet, and implemented reductions in the number of pots that can be deployed by each license holder. Working closely with members of the Washington Dungeness crab industry in an effort to reduce impacts to the fleet and to protected species, WDFW has recently taken further steps in this management approach, adopting additional pot reductions during months when whales are present and expanding an aggressive lost gear recovery program.
This page offers links and resources for interested members of industry and the public to stay up-to-date as the agency and industry members work together on the development of the CP and the implementation of management measures aimed at addressing the impacts of entanglement on protected species.
Commission Briefings and Resources
- January 2022 Briefing and Summary Sheet
- September 2021 Briefing, Rule Changes and Summary
- February 2021 Conservation Plan Update and Summary Sheet
- January 2020 Briefing and Decision, Summary Sheet
- October 2019 Briefing and Summary Sheet
- May 2019 Briefing, Summary Sheet, and other materials
- January 2019 Briefing
Marine Life Entanglement Advisory Group - Coming Soon!
Resources related to the formation of this group are currently under construction.
Workshop and Working Group Notes and Products
- 2020 West Coast Entanglement Science Workshop Report – Agendas, Abstracts, and Presentations
- 2019 Industry Workshop Regarding Whale Entanglements in Coastal Dungeness Crab Fishery
- 2018-19 Best Fishing Practices Guide
- 2017-18 Washington Whale Entanglement Working Group
West Coast Entanglement Info
See: Understanding whale entanglements off the U.S. west coast story image
- 2021 West Coast Whale Entanglement Summary
- CCIEA West Coast Whale Entanglement Data Repository
- Washington Whale Entanglement FAQ
CP and ITP Info
- December 2020 Conservation Plan Overview
- CP Development Handbook (USFWS)
- CP Development Handbook Toolbox (USFWS)
- ESA ITP Process Overview (NMFS)
- NEPA Process and Regulations (CEQ)
Additional External/Partner Links
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife - Whale Safe Fisheries
- Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife – Reducing Risk of Whale Entanglements in Oregon Dungeness Crab Gear
- Additional links and resources from the NOAA West Coast Region:
Experimental Gear Trials and Permitting
As of January 1, 2022, WDFW may issue permits to licensed fishers allowing the trial use of gear that would otherwise be unlawful to fish with in the coastal commercial Dungeness crab fishery. This may include ropeless or on-demand gear, depending on configuration. Licensed fishers may now request a permit by contacting WDFW staff. Interested parties are encouraged to reach out to the Department to discuss goals and objectives of trial activities prior to submission of a formal request. Results from “weak link” gear trials conducted by WDFW staff in 2019 are available at the following link: September 2019 WDFW Gear Test and Results.
How you can help
You can help! If you are out on the water and see a happy, healthy whale, please consult a species guide and report your sighting via Whale Alert – West Coast. Sightings data help us learn more about where whales are under different conditions and at different times of the year, which may help avoid more entanglement interactions in the future. And if you see an entangled animal, please DO NOT use the WhaleAlert app, but report it immediately to the Entanglement Reporting Hotline, 1-877-SOS-WHAL (1-877-767-9425), or to the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16.
To sign up for email and text alerts for Washington coastal commercial Dungeness crab fishery updates, send your email and/or cell phone number to Daniel.Ayres@dfw.wa.gov