Calif. will close crab fisheries earlier than usual to protect whales

All crab fisheries in California will close about three months earlier than usual this year in an effort to keep fishery gear from killing protected whales.

Officials announced the change on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, and the move is the result of a settlement reached by the Center for Biological Diversity and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Under the new arrangement, the crab season will come to a close on April 15 this year. In the next two years the season will end on April 1.

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The settlement comes two years after the center filed a lawsuit against the state agency, accusing the department of being partly liable for an increase in the entanglement of protected whales off California’s coast because it falls within the agency’s jurisdiction of operation.

According to the AP, the number of endangered whales entangled by ropes, anchors and other forms of fishing gear on the West Coast has reached historic levels in recent years as more of the mammals move closer to shore in a search for food due the effects of climate change.

"This agreement represents hours of intense negotiation to help ensure [whale entanglements] don't happen while supporting the resiliency of the crab fishery in the long run," Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham said, according to the AP.

"This is a great victory for the whales and sea turtles that come to feed off the coast of California in very large numbers every single spring season," Kristen Monsell, an attorney representing the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement cited by the AP.