Lost fishing gear recovery efforts underway

Published 6:02 pm Sunday, January 22, 2023

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This month, with the help of dozens of commercial fishermen and women, the North Carolina Coastal Federation have begun efforts to find and remove potentially dangerous lost fishing gear. This is the ninth year the Coastal Federation has held the annual Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project. Throughout the month, watermen will scour parts of the northern and central coast looking to find and remove lost crab pots.

Every year, crab pots and other fishing gear are lost in our sounds in a variety of ways. Lost gear can get hung up or drift into channels, creating serious hazards to boaters, wildlife, and other fishermen. Since 2014, the Federation has led the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project in an effort to remove lost crab pots from North Carolina sounds.

With the help of various partners, commercial fishermen and women are hired to collect the pots during the annual closure of internal coastal waters to all crab, eel, fish, and shrimp pots, January 1-31 north of the Highway 58 bridge to Emerald Isle.

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In 2022, commercial watermen and women in partnership with N.C. Marine Patrol removed 1,995 pots from select areas within all three Marine Patrol districts. The 2023 project will take place in select areas within Marine Patrol District 1, which covers the northeast region of the coast, and District 2, which covers the central region of the coast.

Once the pots are collected, they are recycled to the best extent possible. Crab pots that are recovered from the Albemarle and Pamlico Sound region during the project will be available for the rightful property owners to reclaim after the cleanup is complete.

This project is funded by the N.C. Commercial Fishing Resource Fund Grant Program. It is intended to improve habitat, and water quality and support coastal economies. “It’s really important to keep the sounds clean, and I’m glad to have been part of this project for many years. Keeping the sound clean, keeps everyone happy,” shared Joe Speight, a project participant from Kitty Hawk.

Sara Hallas, coastal education coordinator for the Federation and project leader, said this project is crucial to ensuring we have a coast that’s free of marine debris. “This project brings together unique partnerships for a common cause of clean waterways. It’s more than a win, win. This grant funding is from commercial fishing license fees, so the money that covers our program comes from commercial fishers and will be going right back to those who work with us to find and remove the lost gear.”

Boat crews are conducting crab pot removals from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. each day that the weather is favorable. Each crew works between 3-5 days over the course of the month.

This project is part of the Federation’s overall effort to ensure the N.C. coast is free of marine debris. Establishing an annual paid program for marine debris removal – including crab pots – is a key objective of the N.C. Marine Debris Strategic Plan. For more information on the progress of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project over the past years, go to nccoast.org/project/crabpotproject/.