Derelict crab pot removal underway in Port Townsend Bay


BELLINGHAM – Northwest Straits Foundation is saving Dungeness crab from ghost fishing with the removal this month of 280 derelict crab pots from Port Townsend Bay. The derelict crab pots were identified during a survey last month and are located throughout eleven square kilometers of Port Townsend Bay.

 

The project began on June 3 with the removal of 32 derelict crab pots and is schedule to be completed by July 3, opening day of recreational crabbing season. Removal operations will resume June 10 and are being coordinated by the Foundation’s Derelict Fishing Gear program field operations manager, Natural Resources Consultants. Operations are staged from the F/V Bet-Sea. A break in removal operations will occur during the Tribal crabbing window. The project is funded by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and crab endorsement fees that recreational crabbers pay through their annual fishing license.

 

Derelict crab pots are a significant threat to species, habitats and to the livelihoods that depend on healthy fisheries in Puget Sound. Northwest Straits Foundation estimates that over 12,000 crab pots are lost each year in Puget Sound. One derelict pot kills an average of 21 Dungeness crab per year while it continues to fish. The annual death toll on Dungeness crab of the pots lost each year is at least 178,000. This is estimated to cost $744,000 in harvestable crab and represents about 4.5% of the most recent commercial harvest in Puget Sound. Costs to the recreational fishery and lost revenue for marine-related businesses are significant.

 

The biological impacts of derelict pots are also significant. Dungeness crab is an important prey species as larvae and as juveniles and can account for up to 60% of the food in the diet of juvenile Chinook salmon. Adult crabs are important predators and scavengers, as well prey species for larger marine animals. And derelict crab pots can impact up to 35 square feet of habitat around the pot, depending on site conditions.

 

Crabber can take precautions to minimize crab pot loss. Crab pots often become derelict when the buoy line is clipped by a passing vessel or when pots are deployed in water that is too deep for the length of the line on the pot. Sometimes pots are lost because they are moved by tides or currents and are swept into deeper areas. Pots are frequently found in vessel traffic lanes and boaters out after dark have a challenging time seeing crab pot buoys.

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About the Northwest Straits Foundation and the Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Program

The Northwest Straits Foundation is the non-profit partner of the Northwest Straits Initiative, a collaborative model for marine conservation with a vision of diverse communities working together to restore a thriving marine ecosystem in the Northwest Straits of the Salish Sea. The Foundation works in partnership with the Northwest Straits Commission and seven local Marine Resources Committees(MRCs) of the Northwest Straits whose members represent the diverse stakeholders of their communities, and who identify and implement local marine conservation and restoration projects in their communities.

 

The Foundation’s internationally recognized Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Program has been working collaboratively since 2002 with its funders and partners to rid Puget Sound of harm from derelict fishing gear. As of May 2014, Northwest Straits Foundation has removed over 3,400 derelict crab pots and over 4,700 derelict fishing nets from Puget Sound, documenting impacts to Dungeness crab and over 250 other Puget Sound species. In doing so we have restored more than 670 acres of important marine habitat.

 

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