As the state tightens oversight of commercial fishing in an effort to prevent whale and sea turtle entanglements (and to avoid further lawsuits), crabbers are under the gun.
In recent years, local crabbers have already endured crabbing seasons nearly wiped out or delayed by domoic acid triggered by algal blooms in warmer than usual waters.
Now, as part of a settlement over the aforementioned entanglements, the state’s cut short the commercial crab season by three months. And the crabbers, as we reported this week, are being told to collect their gear and pack it in by April 15, or to reinvest in equipment that some say isn’t even available yet.
While attorney Kristen Monsell of the Center for Biological Diversity — which brought the lawsuit prompting the state’s settlement — said the closures would be “open to ropeless fishing,” others have said that isn’t a realistic option.
“To date, there is no viable solution in ropeless gear,” Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations executive director Noah Oppenheim told the Times-Standard. “That doesn’t mean that someday that will be a possibility. I see many years of additional engineering and development if this is going to be viable.”
Oppenheim may be right — to date. Even if our community’s best and brightest collaborate to build a better crab trap, replacing existing traps may be entirely beyond the present means of many commercial crabbers. But they don’t have to go it alone.
This sounds like a challenge not only for the North Coast’s fishermen, but also its inventors, tinkerers, university students, grant writers and elected representatives. Similar collaborative efforts involving ropeless traps had already been undertaken in Canada, in Maine and in Washington state as of last year.
Can the North Coast work together to do it better, faster and cheaper? Isn’t it worth it to try?