New regulations that formally establish the Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program (RAMP) (found under California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 132.8) go into effect on November 1, 2020. The program assesses and works to minimize the risk of marine life entanglement with fishing gear associated with the commercial Dungeness crab fishery. The focal species protected under these new regulations are humpback whales, Pacific leatherback sea turtles, and blue whales.
Under the new regulations, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will evaluate risk for each Fishing Zone at least monthly from November through July or until the season closes. If risk is elevated, the RAMP regulations require CDFW to implement appropriate management action(s) in collaboration with the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group. Potential management actions include: issuance of a fleet advisory, depth restriction, gear reduction, Fishing Zone delay or closure, or an authorization to use alternative gear. CDFW will notify the fleet at least 72 hours before implementing any management action, and notice will be provided via the Whale Safe Fisheries email listserv and the Whale Safe Fisheries web page. CDFW will also work with the U.S. Coast Guard to make informational broadcasts on VHF Channel 16.
CDFW is currently reviewing available data and conducting aerial surveys off the California coast for whales and sea turtles. This information will inform the first risk assessment of the season, which is expected to occur next week. Please check the Whale Safe Fisheries web page for updates.
The RAMP regulations also establish new mandatory reporting requirements beginning this season. All vessels participating in the fishery must submit bi-weekly reports to CDFW (on or before the 1st and 16th day of each month) with their permit number, current Fishing Zone, depth range, and number of deployed traps. The final report at the end of the fishing season must include the number of lost traps. Reports are to be submitted via email or text to WhaleSafeFisheries@wildlife.ca.gov. Please review the frequently asked questions guide for additional information.
Additional information regarding the RAMP and this new reporting requirement will be available on the Whale Safe Fisheries web page. An updated Best Practices Guide for Minimizing Marine Life Entanglement can also be requested by emailing WhaleSafeFisheries@wildlife.ca.gov.
post by CDFW Marine Region staff