Search is on for lost fishing gear

Published 2:56 pm Monday, January 15, 2024

Throughout this month and with the help of 25 commercial fishermen and women, the North Carolina Coastal Federation will begin efforts to find and remove potentially harmful lost fishing gear. This is the 10th 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 the sounds in various ways.

Lost gear can get hung up or drift into channels, creating serious hazards to boaters, wildlife and other fishermen. Since 2014, the Federation led the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project to remove lost crab pots from North Carolina sounds.

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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. In 2023, commercial watermen and women in partnership with N.C. Marine Patrol removed 2,077 pots from select areas within all three Marine Patrol Districts.

The 2024 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. “I’m glad to be involved and do my part to keep the sounds clean, it’s important for the blue crab fishery and much more. Without clean waterways, there would be so much at risk,” shared Chris Lamb, a long-time project participant from Belhaven.

Sara Hallas, coastal education coordinator for the Coastal Federation and project leader, said this project is crucial to ensuring the coast is free of marine debris. “This project brings together unique partnerships for a common cause of clean waterways. Commercial fishers are true experts of the local waters, with all the time they spend out there. It’s an honor to team up with them on this project, to ensure its success.”

Boat crews will conduct crab pot removals from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. for a limited number of days, when the weather is favorable. Each crew works between three and five days for the month.

This project is part of the Coastal Federation’s overall effort to ensure the North Carolina 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, noted the Coastal Federation. For more information on the progress of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project over the past years, go to nccoast.org/project/crabpotproject/.

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