Reducing the amount of fishing gear in the water could go a long way to saving humpback whales while having little impact on California’s crab fishers, according to a new study.

Sometimes simple solutions are better. It all depends on the nature of the problem. For humpback whales, the problem is the rope connecting a crab trap on the seafloor to the buoy on the surface. And for fishermen, it’s fishery closures caused by whale entanglements.

Managing this issue is currently a major item on California’s agenda. After modeling the benefits and impacts that several management strategies would have on whales and fishermen, researchers say it appears less fishing gear may be the optimal solution.

Their results, published in the journal Biological Conservation, find that simply reducing the amount of gear in the water is more effective than dynamic approaches involving real-time monitoring of whale populations. There may even be solutions on the horizon that provide these benefits with fewer drawbacks.

“We were trying to figure out what types of management strategies would work best at reducing whale entanglements in the Dungeness crab fishery while also minimizing impacts to fishing,” says first author Christopher Free, a researcher at the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “And what we found is that some of the simpler strategies, such as just reducing the amount of gear allocated to the fishermen, outperformed a lot of the more complex management strategies.”

Read the full article about saving humpback whales by Harrison Tasoff at Futurity.