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A Day on the Water: Derelict Crab Pot Removal in Washington State

JUNE 24, 2019 — On June 11, the NOAA Marine Debris Program Pacific Northwest Coordinator Nir Barnea joined the field team for the project “Derelict Crab Pot Removal and Outreach in Washington’s Salish Sea”.

View from vessel on the water.
The removal vessel sails to the next pot. Image credit: NOAA.

The project is led by the Northwest Strait Foundation in collaboration with Natural Resources Consultants and the Jefferson and Clallam County Marine Resources Committees. The partners are removing derelict crab pots from the Salish Sea (Port Townsend Bay and Dungeness Bay) over the course of three years, coupling the removal with targeted outreach and education to recreational crabbers in the region, and evaluating the impact of outreach efforts on crab pot loss reduction.

Nir met the partners in Dungeness Bay near Sequim, Washington. The team, well experienced in the removal of derelict fishing gear, worked like a well-oiled machine. Using previous side scan sonar data,  they positioned the boat exactly above a crab pot lying on the seafloor, and dropped a weighted line to guide the diver to the pot. The diver then jumped into the water holding the line, found the pot, and hooked the line to the pot, directing the crew, via two-way voice communication, to lift the pot. Once a pot was brought on deck, the team inspected it and recorded pertinent details, released the trapped crabs inside (numerous pots had them!), and cleaned the pot for storage in the hold or on deck. At the end of the day the team hauled the pots, most of them dilapidated and unusable, to a local metal recycler.

This was the last removal day for this year. The side scan sonar survey located 405 pots, and the team removed nearly all of them. Outreach workshops to crabbers are in full swing, and have been well attended. Trap and pot loss is a big challenge in Washington State and elsewhere, one that requires multiple approaches and collaboration of everyone involved to successfully reduce gear loss.

For more information contact Nir.Barnea@noaa.gov

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