Watermen fish out more than 4,000 abandoned crab pots

By on February 26, 2017

More than 70 commercial watermen participated. (Swell Productions)

Boats crewed by 72 commercial watermen spread out along the North Carolina coast in January as part of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project and collected 4,270 lost crab pots, more than double the number collected in all of the first three years of the annual effort.

The program expanded beyond northeastern North Carolina waters for the first time this year and is led by the North Carolina Coastal Federation with North Carolina Sea Grant, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program and the N.C. Marine Patrol.

“Removing these crab pots cleans up the public trust resource and puts our local fishermen to work,” said Ladd Bayliss, coastal advocate for the federation and leader of the project.

The project began in 2014 with funding from the NOAA Marine Debris Program to recover crab pots from northeastern North Carolina waters from the Virginia line to Ocracoke.

In 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly appropriated money to expand the program statewide expansion and hire more commercial fishermen starting in January 2017. The 2017 project began Jan. 18 and took place encompassed all three Marine Patrol districts.

North Carolina Coastal Federation Crab Pot Cleanup Project from Swell Productions on Vimeo.

The number of pots recovered during the 2017 project is more than double the amount of crab pots that were collected in 2014, 2015 and 2016 combined.

“It was very exciting to see this become a statewide effort,” Bayliss said. “Without the ongoing support of our partners, local communities and the commercial fishermen we hire each year, this accomplishment wouldn’t have been possible.”

The project takes place during the no-potting period when crab pots must be removed from the water. Because of their experience, the fishermen can predict movements of the sounds and find potential lost crab pot hotspots.

“The commercial fishermen hired to work on this project are great advocates for a clean sound. My hope is that this project continues annually to help both the resource and our fishermen,” Bayliss said.

Other collaborators include the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries and Dare County Public Works. Chris Hannant of Swell Productions created a video with highlights from this year’s project.

For more information, visit nccoast.org/crabpot or contact Ladd Bayliss at 252-473-1607.

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