By Monica Jacquez (KION TV) May 27, 2016

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. – It’s been a rough season for Dungeness crab fishermen after a domoic acid outbreak kept them out of the water for months. And now that they’re finally allowed to fish, many are choosing to wrap-up early in an effort to protect whales in the Monterey Bay.

It’s feeding time for humpback whales but because of the delay in crab season, whales are getting caught in fishing gear that’s normally not in the water this time of year.

That’s why crab fishermen, ocean advocacy groups and governmental agencies are teaming up to prevent whale entanglements in the Monterey Bay.

“We’re doing everything we can to reduce entanglements and working with the environmental groups and whale disentanglement teams to alter our gear types and ways we fish to reduce entanglements,” said commercial fisherman Walter Deyerle.

Deyerle keeps his family’s restaurant stocked with crabs but when he heard whales kept getting caught in fishing lines, he decided to take his gear out of the water.

“When you spend as much time at sea alone as a commercial fishing fleet does the leviathan and albatross become your best friends and we don’t want to see them hurt and do any damage,” said Deyerle.

Peak crab season is usually wrapped up by March but because of the delay crabbers are working late into the season.

“The humpback whales are here to feed and unfortunately they often feed right in the same areas as Dungeness crab fishermen set their crab traps,” said Geoff Shester with Oceana.

Shester said when crab season opened in March there were seven whale entanglements in 10 days.

“Everyone is really equally concerned about this. Fishermen are really stepping up right now and doing something on a voluntary basis,” said Shester.

Some fishermen are also choosing to move their gear to places whales don’t usually feed but there aren’t as many crabs there either.

“We’re just there to catch the crabs and not cause any collateral damage with any of the sea life, mammal or fish or bird,” said Deyerle.

The commercial crab season ends June 30.

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