Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Project

The Chesapeake Bay is continually polluted with a wide variety of marine debris including derelict crab traps.  Derelict (lost or abandoned) blue crab traps (pots) can continue to capture and kill animals for several years depending upon salinity and wave climate.  Removal of marine debris, particularly derelict pots, can result in a natural resource and economic benefit if conducted in a structured and environmentally sensitive manner.

In April 2008, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission closed winter crab dredge fishery.  Out-of work commercial fisherman were invited to participate in the Marine Debris Removal Program. This program continued at different levels for six years from December 1st through March 15th.  In 2009, an additional 8 watermen were chosen by lottery to specifically target shallow water areas.

The US Dept. of Commerce/NOAA funding for the program ended after the winter of 2011.  A smaller effort, with four participants targeting 'hotspots' of pot loss, was funded through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Fishing for Energy Program for the winter of 2012 and 2013.

Removed Derelict Pots

Marine Debris Removal Counter

Season

2008-09

2009-10

2010-11

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

Days Worked 48 49 49 24 30 32
Number of Watermen 58 65 70 70 4 7
Bycatch Removed
Bycatch

(click to see a detailed list of animals)

4790 9827 12850 4137 216 1134
Other Debris Removed
Crab Pots 7809 8655 8395 3438 637 1107
Peeler Pots 820 719 1435 672 62 121
Eel Pots 109 113 140 105 27 33
Nets 62 38 52 9 0 1
Other Debris 246 535 532 161 7 17
Boats (not removed) 5 8 3 9 0 0
Total Debris Removed 9046 10060 10554 4385 733 1279