Fishermen and Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust team up to remove lost crab gear from Monterey Bay

The exciting news is that some whale populations have recovered to historic levels, and Monterey Bay is a super highway of summer whale migration. In recent years, humpbacks lunge feeding, orcas waiting to pounce on passing gray whales, and even pods of the mighty blue whale have been spotted en masse in Monterey Bay.

However, more whales means more potential mishaps when it comes to crab pots, which rest on the bottom of the ocean, and are attached to a buoy with a long line that stretches through the water. And whales aren’t the only things that get entangled in these pots. When commercial salmon fishermen head out to fish, they can get caught on crab pots, lose gear, or even run them over and have their prop and shaft put out of commission.

So, the Lost Gear Recovery Project, which has been tested in various ways in other California ports including Half Moon Bay, Eureka, and Crescent City, is coming to Monterey Bay. The Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust is partnering with local fishermen to spearhead this initiative, with support from The Nature Conservancy and the Half Moon Bay Commercial Fisheries Trust. 

Lost Gear Recovery Team members Calder Deyerle (with his son and deckhand, Miles) and Darryl Donovan.

Lost Gear Recovery Team members Calder Deyerle (with his son and deckhand, Miles) and Darryl Donovan.

Calder Deyerle, a second generation fisherman out of Moss Landing, will be one of the fishermen in charge of recovering gear in Monterey Bay. “The Monterey Bay is a hotspot for whale activity in the summer,” he said. “My main goal for participating in this is to reduce whale entanglements.” Lost pots can also be costly for fishermen. Calder explained that the pots, lines, buoys, and paint to brand them cost about $300 per pot. On a really stormy winter, he has lost up to 10% of his pots - and he fishes 250 pots, so it really adds up. 

When the Dungeness Crab fishing season ends, the Lost Gear Recovery Team, consisting of Calder and his fellow fishermen, Darryl Donovan and Jerid Rold, will head out to find lost pots and bring them back to Moss Landing. The Nature Conservancy is developing a data tool that will allow fishermen to use a GPS enabled phone to capture images of lost gear to send to the Recovery Team. The Trust will then contact the owner who can buy his or her pot back for $60. The Moss Landing Harbor District is donating storage space for the project.

Calder points out that local fishermen mostly return each other’s lost pots informally, at no charge. “This isn’t going to replace neighborly stewardship,” he said. “We’re a small community out here fishing, and we help each other out.” However, currents and tides can tow some pots from far away, which end up in Monterey Bay.  This project will get the pots out of the water and give the owners an opportunity to recover their lost gear.

“The Lost Gear Recovery project is an easy win for fishermen, wildlife, and all boaters,” said Sherry Flumerfelt, executive director of the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust. “And it's a great example of the commitment and stewardship of our local fishing community.”

To learn more about how California Dungeness crab fishermen are working to help reduce risks to whale entanglements, visit www.opc.ca.gov/whale-entanglement-working-group/

Read More

In order to prevent whale entanglements, local crab fishermen team up to find lost pots. By David Schmalz. Monterey County Weekly. October 12, 2017.

Reeling in a major cause of whale entanglement. By Geoff Drake. Monterey Bay Aquarium, Conservation & Science Blog. October 9, 2017.  

How can you help?

Help us keep lost gear out of the water and away from whales for years to come by making a tax deductible donation to the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust. 

Sherry Flumerfelt