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

On June 5, 2018, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, in partnership with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Ocean Protection Council, convened the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group (Working Group) to discuss elevated numbers of entanglements observed in May 2018, as well as review other risk assessment factors including whale concentrations, forage/ocean conditions, and fishing dynamics. The Working Group reviewed the available information and the following risk level was identified:

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

More information about the scoring of each factor is available here (see “Summary” section below for additional details). Looking ahead to the final weeks of the 2017-18 fishing season, migrating whales are expected to be present in high numbers in traditional Dungeness crab fishing grounds throughout California.

Those who are no longer fishing are strongly encouraged to remove all fishing gear that is not being actively fished. The Working Group recommends fishermen avoid fishing in areas where there are groups of feeding or migrating whales, schools of anchovy, and/or swarms of krill and proceed with caution in the vicinity of submarine canyons, and if possible, consider  reducing the number of traps that are being actively fished. All Dungeness crab traps need to be removed by the close of the fishing season south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line on June 30 and north of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line on July 15.

To minimize the potential for whale entanglements, the commercial fleet and recreational fishing community are requested to follow the recommendations outlined in the 2017-18 Best Practices Guide, with specific attention to the setup of surface gear. Fishermen, particularly those fishing in the Northern Management Area, are encouraged to share observations of whale activity and ocean conditions (e.g., are you seeing schools of anchovy, and if so, where?) 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 monitor any changes in risk throughout the 2017-18 fishing season. In collaboration with agencies and researchers, the Working Group will continue to evaluate, and be responsive to the relative risk of entanglements and will  inform the industry as new updates are available.

This update will be shared via the DCTF email list, the Working Group webpage, and CDFW’s crab webpage.  The Working Group welcomes your feedback and insights about the Working Group’s efforts and the 2017-18 RAMP pilot. Please visit http://www.opc.ca.gov/whale-entanglement-working-group or contact the Working Group at info@cawhalegroup.com.  


In May 2018, there were seven (7) confirmed entanglement reports in California involving five (5) confirmed humpback whales, one grey whale, and one fin whale. Most of the gear involved in the entanglements is unidentified, with one report involving CA Dungeness crab gear that was set in the Crescent City area. Entanglements have been observed from the CA/OR border to Ventura. There have also been three (3) confirmed entanglement reports in Washington.

In addition to this recent uptick in whale entanglements, it was reported that concentrations of whales migrating along the West Coast continue to increase, as expected for this time of year. Upwelling has continued resulting in a very good krill year, particularly around the shelf and canyon areas. Anchovy populations are showing up in some concentrated areas in high numbers along the coast. While patchy in distribution, this could bring humpbacks closer inshore, putting them at increased risk of entanglements. While fishing effort continues to decrease, it was reported that a fair price is still holding and some fishermen plan to fish until the end of the season.


RAMP Resources:

RAMP Overview

Draft RAMP Guiding Principles

Draft RAMP Assumptions

PDFs of Status Updates & Recommendations:


Contact the Working Group at info@cawhalegroup.com

Ocean Protection Council

Facilitation Team: Strategic Earth Consulting