EHL is working to help transition the Southern California lobster fishery to “ropeless” fishing gear.

The Entanglement of whales and other marine life in fishing gear is a terrible situation. Entangled whales drag the ropes and die horrible deaths of starvation, exhaustion, and drowning. A significant aspect of this problem is lobster and crab traps set on the ocean floor and tied to surface buoys with ropes. Following litigation, in the northern California Dungeness crab fishery, the Department of Fish and Wildlife closes fisheries when whales are migrating. But the long-term solution that serves both the industry and marine mammals is “ropeless” gear with traps that can be called to the surface remotely. Still under development, it is urgent to bring this technology into widespread use, through both legislation and collaboration.

Ocean Defenders Alliance, a fine organization that removes lost and discarded fishing nets from the water, has mapped massive numbers of spiny lobster traps off the Southern California coast. (The vast majority of spiny lobster – an expensive but traditional local delicacy – is exported overseas.) EHL is now working with other conservation groups and an organization that specializes in the new gear, Sustainable Seas Technology, on a pilot project to test ropeless equipment along with cooperating lobster fishers in Southern California.