Skip to Main Content
Organization Title

Draft Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program (RAMP)

Since September 2015, the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group (Working Group) has been taking steps to actively identify and be responsive to elevated risks of whale entanglements in California Dungeness crab fishing gear. This unique coalition of diverse stakeholders—which includes commercial and recreational fishermen, environmental organization representatives, members of the whale entanglement response network and state and federal agencies—is committed to developing solutions that support thriving whale populations along the West Coast and a thriving and profitable Dungeness crab fishery. For a Fact Sheet about the Working Group and other background information, visit the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group webpage.

Draft Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program (RAMP):

In May 2017, the group identified the need for a risk assessment tool to facilitate continual, collaborative evaluation of the risk of entanglement, as well as identified mitigation options that allow for a collaborative recommendation to CDFW regarding options to reduce risk of entanglement. This evolved into the Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program (RAMP). The program will be tested as a pilot during the upcoming season, and is designed to be flexible and responsive to considering new information, technologies, and approaches to reducing the risk of entanglements.

Jonathan Gross

2017-2018 RAMP Pilot:

The Working Group agreed to pilot the draft RAMP during the 2017-18 Dungeness crab fishing season. All aspects of the draft RAMP will be voluntary during this pilot phase and apply to both recreational and commercial fishing. The pilot will evaluate the RAMP structure and function, including the implementation of the tools and process for assessing circumstances where entanglement risk is elevated and, as needed, identifying possible management measures (voluntary) for the CDFW Director’s consideration. Additionally, “mock” drills to test how well the teams respond will be run in Spring 2018 (no change to fishing practices would occur during “mock” situations). The Working Group will also consider what legislative support may be suitable/helpful with certain aspects of the RAMP moving beyond the pilot. Findings from the pilot will help to further refine and inform the draft RAMP, its tools, and the program’s working assumptions and guiding principles, as needed. During the course of the pilot, 1-2 meetings may be held in port locations in an effort to share information and address questions with the fleet.

RAMP Pilot: Preseason Risk Assessment 

  • The California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group (Working Group) convened on October 26 and November 6, 2017, to discuss the relative risk of whale entanglements as the 2017-18 California Dungeness crab fishing season approaches. Four priority factors—season delay, forage/ocean conditions, whale concentrations, and rate of entanglements—were evaluated and a preseason risk level was identified for each:
    • Whale concentrations: Moderate
    • Entanglements: Low
    • Forage/ocean conditions: Low
    • Season delay:Low

    More information about the scoring of each factor is available here and additional information about the reason for the “moderate” whale concentration score is detailed below.

    Whale Concentrations, Moderate
    As of November 3, 2017, the 7-day composite running average of whale sightings in the Monterey Bay area (used to track humpback whales’ seasonal migration and anticipated departure from California feeding grounds) is between 5 to 20 whales. For the 2017-18 RAMP pilot, the Working Group identified this average concentration as “moderate”, suggesting that humpback whales have not moved off their traditional feeding grounds as of early November.

    As a next step, the Working Group (operating as an evaluation team) has initiated a data gathering exercise to continue the compilation and analysis of available data on whale concentrations (data sources include Monterey Bay Whale Watch, the Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies (ACCESS), and Oceanic Society). Additionally, an aerial survey will be conducted in the Southern Management Area by Working Group science advisors in the first few weeks following the opener (weather dependent). Efforts are being made to consider relationships between whale concentration information and the other priority factors.

    To minimize the potential for whale entanglements in the 2017-18 Dungeness crab fishing season, the commercial fleet and recreational fishing community are requested to consult and follow the recommendations outlined in the 2017-18 Best Practices Guide, with specific attention to the setup of surface gear. Fishermen should be on alert and avoid fishing in areas where there are groups of feeding whales and/or schools of anchovy.

    The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and Working Group advisors will collaboratively track these factors and watch for any changes in risk throughout the season. The Working Group will reconvene in March to reassess these factors.

    Additional updates on the status of whale concentrations, along with updates on the other three factors, will be shared via the Dungeness Crab Task Force email list, the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group webpage, and CDFW’s Dungeness crab webpage. For more information about the Working Group’s efforts and the 2017-18 RAMP pilot, including opportunities to provide feedback and share your expertise, visit the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group webpage or contact the Working Group at

RAMP Resources:

RAMP Overview

Draft RAMP Guiding Principles

Draft RAMP Assumptions



Contact the Working Group at

Ocean Protection Council

Facilitation Team: Strategic Earth Consulting

Quick Links