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A record number of West Coast whales are getting caught in crab gear

FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2016, file photo, a whale breaches close to the Harbor Breeze Cruises La Espa
A whale breaches off San Pedro in September.
(Nick Ut / AP)

Federal authorities are reporting a record number of whales getting tangled in crabbing gear off the West Coast.

The Center for Biological Diversity environmental group announced the development Wednesday, citing new figures from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The conservation group says 71 cases of whales caught in fishing lines were reported off California, Oregon and Washington last year. Fishing gear was identifiable in 29 cases, and of those, 22 animals were caught in commercial Dungeness crab gear.

Numbers of such entanglements have been climbing yearly. Whales caught in the ropes of crabbing pots can starve or die from infected wounds.

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A spokeswoman for California’s Fish and Wildlife Department did not immediately return a request for comment.

California recently passed legislation meant to encourage crabbers to remove unused crabbing gear from the ocean.

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