California is facing a lawsuit filed by an environmental group alleging that its commercial Dungeness crab fishery is causing the increasing whale entanglements.
On Tuesday, the Center for Biological Diversity filed its complaint against the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The center alleged that the department violated Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act.
The environmental group named the department’s Director Charlton Bonham and Marine Region Manager Craig Shuman as defendants in the case. The Center alleged that both officials are responsible for causing the illegal “take” of endangered humpback whales, blue whales, and leatherback sea turtles.
In the lawsuit, the Center challenged Bonham and Shuman’s authorization of the California commercial Dungeness crab fishery.
The Center argued, “Defendants do not have an incidental take permit authorizing takes incidental to operation of the Dungeness crab fishery.” However, they allowed Dungeness crab fishermen to use traps, fishing line, buoys, and other gears that entangle endangered whales and sea turtles.
The Center believes their authorization caused and will likely continue cause the unlawful injuries, and deaths of these protected species.
The Department is liable for causing the unlawful entanglements. It is seeking common sense reforms to the Dungeness crab fishery, according to the Center.
West Coast whale entanglements broke records
Over the past three years, the West Coast broke the records of whale entanglements. Last year, 71 whale entanglements were reported, up from 62 in 2015 and 30 in 2014.
Kristen Moonsell, the senior attorney at the Center said, “These entanglements are heartbreaking, illegal and way too common. California officials can’t let this minefield of crab traps continue to slaughter endangered whales and sea turtles.”
Additionally, Monsell said, “Ropes wrapped around humpbacks’ heads, flippers and tails can tighten as they swim and may never come loose. These tragic entanglements are happening in record-breaking numbers.”
According to her, the Center filed the lawsuit because of the record-breaking whale entanglements. It wants to “force California officials to finally take their responsibilities seriously.”