Experimental Fishing Permit Approved to Test Innovative Fishing Gear

Silver Spring, Md. – June 20, 2023 – The California Fish and Game Commission approved the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s application for an Experimental Fishing Permit (EFP) to test innovative pop-up fishing gear in the California Dungeness crab fishery with local fishermen in real world simulations. The new gear types are intended to reduce the risk of entangling protected whales and sea turtles while providing increased fishing opportunities for fishermen.   

During the June meeting in Sacramento, the Commission approved the permit to allow up to five vessels to test different pop-up fishing systems to assess their performance, feasibility, and compatibility in the Dungeness crab fishery. Information collected under the EFP will help inform future authorization of alternative gear that would allow fishing opportunities in areas otherwise closed due to elevated entanglement risk.  

We are committed to working with the fishing community, fisheries managers, scientists and other partners to find gear innovation solutions that reduce the risk of entanglements while allowing fishing to continue, and we thank the California Fish and Game Commission for joining us in that effort,” said Greg Wells, Gear Innovation Manager at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. “This experimental fishing permit will provide us and fisherman collaborators the opportunity to gather much-needed data on the how the gear performs on fishing vessels as well as feedback on how to tailor designs to meet fishermen’s needs. We look forward to working with fishermen and our partners to help conserve iconic marine species.” 

Whales can become entangled in vertical lines that connect traps on the seafloor with surface buoys. The project will test new gear innovations designed to reduce or eliminate the time buoy lines are in the water column, including timed-release and on-demand pop-up systems. 

Fishermen will have the opportunity to experiment with multiple gear types and share their expertise and feedback on the reliability and performance of the gear under fishing conditions. Fishermen will receive training on how to operate the gear and funding support for their participation in the project. Key partners and advisors include the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA Fisheries), West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries, California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group (Working Group), and fishermen collaborators. 

On the U.S. West Coast, there has been a significant increase in the number of confirmed whale entanglements since 2014, with the majority reported from California. While about half of entanglements cannot be attributed to a specific source, Dungeness crab fishing gear is the most common identified source. Gear innovations like those tested in this project represent a potential solution for reducing marine life entanglement risk while allowing for continued fishing activity. 

The project is committed to working with the fishing community, fisheries managers, scientists and other partners to advance gear innovation solutions to reduce the risk of entanglements for whales and other marine life while supporting thriving fisheries. 

For more information, visit the project webpage. 




The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, established in 2000, is the official non-profit partner of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The Foundation directly supports America’s national marine sanctuaries through our mission to protect species, conserve ecosystems and preserve America’s maritime heritage. We accomplish our mission through community stewardship and engagement programs, on-the-water conservation projects, public education and outreach programs, and scientific research and exploration. The Foundation fosters innovative projects that are solution-oriented, scalable and transferable, and develop strategic partnerships that promote the conservation and recovery of species and their habitats. Learn more at marinesanctuary.org. 



 Chip Weiskotten 

Director of Strategic Communications