Whales tangle with CA fishing gear

Record numbers of whales are showing up along the California coastline with fishing line tangled around their blubbery bodies, in a trend that’s bedeviled fishermen, environmentalists and state regulators alike.

The entanglements happen when whales run into gear that commercial fishermen use to catch Dungeness crab or other crustaceans. The “line” is a thick rope extending from a buoy on the ocean surface to a heavy trap — or “pot” — on the ocean floor. Whales run into the rope while chasing prey along the coastline, and it gets caught in their mouths.

“The whales move where the food is, and they’re feeding, so they’ll have their mouths open,” said Peggy Stap, executive director of Marine Life Studies, a conservation group in Moss Landing. She’s seen whales struggle to eat with line running through their mouths. In some cases, Stap said, the line tangles around their fins and impedes them from swimming.

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About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 13 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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