Coastal Review Online: Lost fishing gear recovery to begin in N.C. waters

Commercial fishermen collect crab pots and fishing gear in internal waters during a past Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project. [photo courtesy N.C. Coastal Federation]

This week, 31 commercial watermen and women are set to begin collecting lost crab pots and fishing gear along the northern and central coast as part of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project.

The North Carolina Coastal Federation has been leading since 2014 the recovery project to remove lost crab pots from the state’s internal waters. Lost gear can get hung up or drift into channels, creating hazards to boaters and wildlife.

With the help of various partners, commercial fishermen and women have been hired to collect the pots during the no-potting period, the annual closure of internal coastal waters to all crab, eel, fish and shrimp pots.

“We’ve all been hit pretty hard this year. After a tough year of crabbing I am looking forward to this opportunity. With this project not getting funded in 2020, I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of cleaning up to do,” JT Outland, project participant from Manns Harbor, said in a statement. “Being on the water nearly every day as a full-time commercial fisherman, it’s important to remove the lost pots and keep our waters clean and safe.”

Sara Hallas, coastal education coordinator for the federation and project leader, said she’s excited to clean up the waterways and create opportunities for work during this time of the year.

“This project wouldn’t be possible without the support of community organizations and our commercial watermen and women, who have consistently expressed that helping with this project and protecting waterways is important to them,” she said.

In January 2019, 3,112 pots were removed from select areas within all three Marine Patrol Districts. The 2021 project will take place in select areas within Marine Patrol District 1, which covers the northeast region, and District 2, which covers the central region of the coast.

Once the pots are collected, they will be recycled if possible. The crab pots 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.

The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission Commercial Resource Fund Committee and the Funding Committee for the North Carolina Commercial Resource Fund under the Commercial Fishing Resource Fund Grant Program are funding the project intended to improve habitat, water quality and support coastal economies.

The project is part of the federation’s effort to ensure an North Carolina coast that is free of marine debris. Establishing an annual paid program for marine debris removal, including crab pots, is a key objective of the North Carolina Marine Debris Strategic Plan. For more information on the progress of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project over past years, visit nccoast.org/crabpotproject.