OSU nets results to help whales and fisheries
A new study from Oregon State University will help inform fishing rules meant to decrease whale entanglements off the Oregon Coast.
Humpback whales are prone to getting tangled in nets, especially those used to catch Dungeness crabs. It can limit the whales’ ability to migrate or reproduce.
Solene Derville is with OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute. She told KLCC researchers first needed to learn where the whales tend to hang out, and when.
“Most of the whales were found past a certain depth off the Oregon Coast, so on the continental shelf," she said. "This area of highest whale densities was not overlapping with where most of the crab fishing effort was taking place at the end of the season.”
Derville said entanglements have risen three-fold in the last eight years, and researchers agree there are likely many undocumented cases.
Troy Buell, the State Fishery Management program leader with ODFW's marine resources program, collaborated on the project. He said the study shows crabbing restrictions should stay in place, including limiting the depth of fishing after May 1st. He said the twin goals are to keep whale populations and Oregon’s Dungeness crab fishery strong.
Buell said one important result of the study was learning that Oregon’s whales saw reduced exposure to entanglement during marine heat waves, whereas the opposite was found in California. He said it’s therefore important to have research specifically for Oregon because the system here is different, and needs to be accounted for differently in fishery management.