California Funds Major Expansion of Pop-Up Fishing Gear Library

State funding for an expanded library of pop-up fishing gear will dramatically increase access for fishers and support critical testing efforts.

A worker on the deck of a fishing boat with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background

Pop-up fishing technology developed by Sub Sea Sonics and Guardian Ropeless was successfully tested by California Dungeness crab fishers in 2023


Guardian Ropeless - Sub Sea Sonics

The California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) has approved up to $1.825 million dollars in state funding to support activities that reduce the risk of whale and sea turtle entanglements in fishing gear associated with California fisheries.

Of this amount, OPC approved up to $450,000 to expand the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s pop-up fishing gear library. The expansion of the Foundation’s gear library will greatly improve access to pop-up gear for California fishers, and help advance critical efforts to test the technology.

Pop-up fishing gear (also known as “on-demand” or “ropeless” gear) virtually eliminates the risk of whale and sea turtle entanglements, while enabling fishing to continue in areas that would otherwise be closed to fishing to protect these vulnerable species from entanglements.

The work of OPC staff, to more than double the original funding recommendation for the gear library in order to boost access to pop-up gear, will reduce the financial risk for fishers participating in state-authorized testing efforts.

This increased financial support will help ensure that a critically important large-scale pop-up testing project led by Sub Sea Sonics can be successfully implemented. The Sub Sea Sonics project, authorized by the state under an expanded Experimental Fishing Permit (EFP), will enable 20 Dungeness crab fishers to test pop-up gear developed by Sub Sea Sonics and Guardian Ropeless this spring. California fishers have indicated their preference for this particular technology due to its cost effectiveness and previous successful testing efforts in 2023 that demonstrated crab could be fished with a 98% reliability rate and virtually no gear loss. This level of fisher participation in a pop-up gear testing project is unprecedented on the U.S. West Coast. 

The Foundation’s expanded pop-up gear library will directly support the implementation of this large-scale testing effort, which will also enable many new fishers to gain first-hand experience with pop-up gear. The data collected during the project’s implementation will also play a vital role in informing the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s decision whether to authorize pop-up gear for commercial use in the California Dungeness crab fishery in 2025. 

Importantly, OPC also approved up to $1.4 million for the development of a virtual gear marking system to support enforcement of pop-up gear by the state, line marking of conventional fishing gear so that gear entangling animals can be traced back to the fishery of origin, and continued support for whale entanglement response programs. Taken together, these activities will greatly expand California’s science-based fisheries management toolbox, enabling more effective resource management decisions that will result in productive fisheries and protected whales and sea turtles in California waters.

OPC’s decision indicates a deep commitment by the state of California to work towards solutions that will enable the coexistence of its treasured marine life and its vibrant fisheries.

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