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Uncovering America's methamphetamine history; PA Early Intervention programs vital for child development; measuring long-term impact of the O.J. Simpson trial on media literacy.

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President Biden's name could be left off the ballot in Alabama and Ohio, the Justice Dept. mandates background checks for gun show purchases, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds moves to allow state police to arrest undocumented migrants.

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Housing advocates fear rural low-income folks who live in aging USDA housing could be forced out, small towns are eligible for grants to enhance civic participation, and North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues.

Partial shutdown of crab fishing season considered to protect whales

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Wednesday, March 27, 2024   

A working group convened by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife meets today to consider a partial closure of the commercial Dungeness crab fishing season, amid concerns too many whales and sea turtles are getting tangled up in the crab gear.

The ropes, which run from crab traps on the seafloor up to a buoy on the surface can become twisted around an animal's body. Last year, the gear entangled at least five humpback whales and killed a critically endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle.

Andrea Treece, senior attorney for Earthjustice, a nonprofit public-interest environmental law organization, detailed the concerns.

"We leave too much gear on the water too late in the season, we wait until the risk is elevated," Treece pointed out. "Too often, it's too late to protect those whales. And so we need to really learn our lesson from the past."

The danger is greatest in the spring, summer and fall, when humpback whales migrate to California from Mexico and South America. The Department of Fish and Wildlife's risk assessment team is recommending the commercial fishery close April 5 south of the Sonoma/Mendocino County line, and would restrict the depth at which the crab traps can be set in northern California waters.

Treece thinks the department should announce a statewide closure as soon as possible, as it will take weeks to retrieve the gear and whales can quickly move north into areas with a lot of gear still in the water. She added a new type of ropeless gear is being tested, which could make a big difference once it is approved for use.

"We could be looking at a future where this fishery has to operate between January and March," Treece noted. "With a thoughtful transition to ropeless gear, we could be looking at a future where the fishery is operating for its full season."

A new public service announcement from the nonprofit Oceana includes video of a humpback whale filmed in 2022, entangled in ropes. The whale swam more than 1,000 miles, dragging the discarded crab gear for a year before it was discovered.


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