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New Oregon laws aim to reduce whale deaths from crab fishing lines

New Oregon laws aim to reduce whale deaths from crab fishing lines
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A new Oregon law aims to prevent whale deaths by placing new restrictions on crab fishing, The Oregonian reported Monday.

Starting May 1, Oregon fishermen will reportedly have to reduce the number of crab cages they can drop and the cages will not be allowed lower than 40 fathoms, or 240 feet. 

According to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife data, there have been nine known cases of whales getting caught in crab lines in as many years, compared with four deaths in the nine years before that. 

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Environmental advocate Gway Kirchner acknowledged that whales getting caught in crab lines isn’t as big an issue in the state as in others such as California and Washington. 

“If we don’t take the steps that we’re taking today, I think that it could become a significant problem for us,” Kirchner told The Oregonian. 

Humpback and gray whale populations have grown over the past decades after being hunted nearly to extinction. With that growth — and changes in the ecosystem — whales have been driven more into crab territory and crabs into whale territory. 

Those increasing humpback whale populations have forced animals to compete for food including krill, a primary dietary staple for whales. 

According to Oregon Live, there have been nine known cases of whales getting caught in Oregon crab lines over the last nine years, more than double the amount the nine years prior.

State officials hope that forbidding deep crabbing during the summer months will reduce the risk to humpback whales passing through the Oregon coast.