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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: Relative Risk Assessment

The California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group (Working Group) reconvened on January 3, 2018, to continue to evaluate the relative risk of whale entanglements as part of the 2017-2018 Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program (RAMP) Pilot. Four priority factors—season delay, forage/ocean conditions, whale concentrations, and rate of entanglements—were evaluated and the following relative risk level was identified for each factor:

  • Whale concentrations: Low
  • Entanglements: Low
  • Forage/ocean conditions: Low
  • Season delay:Low

More information about the scoring of each factor is available here.

January 3, 2018 Status Update:

The California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group (Working Group) reconvened on January 3, 2018 to continue to evaluate the relative risk of whale entanglements as part of the 2017-18 Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program (RAMP) Pilot. In anticipation of the Northern Management Area (OR/CA border south to Mendocino/Sonoma County line) opener on January 15, 2018, and as a follow up to the two previous updates shared with commercial and recreational fishermen (here and here), the Working Group would like to highlight the following:

  • The delayed northern opener increases the potential for high concentrations of fishing gear in areas of migrating and feeding whales. To minimize the potential for whale entanglements, 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 swarms of krill and proceed with caution in the vicinity of submarine canyons. 
  • The concentration of humpback whales has been updated from a moderate risk level to a low risk level. A chart showing this change since the start of the season is available here. Best fishing practices are still requested to minimize the potential for entanglements, particularly for migrating gray whales which are present in California nearshore waters at this time of year. The Working Group will reconvene in early March 2018 to conduct a mid-season assessment of the risk factors and looks forward to keeping the industry informed of any further updates at that time (or beforehand as needed).

Fishermen, particularly those fishing in the Northern Management Area, are encouraged to share observations of whale activity to help inform the Working Group’s efforts. Text 310-738-2665 or email info@cawhalegroup.com.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, and Working Group advisors will continue to work collaboratively and watch for any changes in risk throughout the 2017-18 fishing season. The Working Group is working with agencies and researchers to evaluate, and be responsive to, the relative risk of entanglements and will continue to inform the industry as new updates are available.

This update will be shared via the DCTF 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 Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group webpage or contact the Working Group at info@cawhalegroup.com.

RAMP Resources:

RAMP Overview

Draft RAMP Guiding Principles

Draft RAMP Assumptions

PDFs of Status Updates & Recommendations:

Contact       

Contact the Working Group at info@cawhalegroup.com

Ocean Protection Council

Facilitation Team: Strategic Earth Consulting

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