GLOUCESTER – Derelict fishing gear is a major problem in the United States, with millions of pots lost each year along the nation’s coasts.
“From the West Coast, it’s the Dungeness crab pots. In the Northeast, it’s lobster traps, American lobster traps. And then of course, we have blue crab traps that go from the Mid-Atlantic all the way down around the Southeast into the Gulf, and so on,” said Kirk Havens, the director of the Center for Coastal Resources Management at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
He mentioned that in a recent six-year period, 34,000 derelict crab pots were pulled from the Virginia waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Such cleanup is being done in other areas as well, from Maine to the West Coast.
However, more needs to be done than just recovering the pots. Are there trouble spots along the coasts? What damage is being done to the environment? How can we reduce the number of lost pots? What about the economy?
Thanks to an $8 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, VIMS is hoping to answer those questions.
“There are groups that do all these types of removals, but the problem has been that there isn’t a consistent standardization of the collection of the data when they’re pulling these pots out,” Havens said. “We really felt it important to get a handle on exactly where these are, what condition they are in, the types of bycatch, the other kind of critters that are being caught in these traps when they’re pulling them up.”
VIMS is often contacted by organizations around the country to help with this issue. That is when they discovered the data collection problem. Havens said some organizations would collect just the number of pots removed, some would record the number of pots and where they were located, and others might not record the bycatch.
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