According to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, watermen succeeded in hauling up more than 10,000 derelict so-called “ghost pots,” lost fishing nets, and assorted metal junk from the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in the third year of Virginia’s one-of-a-kind Marine Debris Removal Program.
The program, funded by NOAA through the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and administered by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, paid the watermen to use side-imaging sonar units to detect and retrieve lost or abandoned crab pots and other marine debris that litter the Bay floor. The 70 watermen participants were paid $300 a day, and were compensated for their fuel costs.
VIMS scientists have analyzed the program’s accomplishments in its third year and discovered:
- A total of 9,970 derelict crab pots were recovered, along with 52 lost nets and 532 other pieces of junk, including a jon boat, a portable generator frame, and a large metal crate used to transport hunting dogs.
- Many of the recovered pots had been derelict for several years, and continue to inadvertently trap and kill crabs and a variety of fish and wildlife.
- The recovered crab pots were found to have captured over the winter more than 11,000 animals, including thousands of crabs, as well as turtles, fish, eels, and whelks. Scientists have determined that each functional lost crab pot can capture about 50 crabs a year.
Ongoing research at VIMS funded through NOAA’s Marine Debris Program suggests 20 percent of all the crab pots set in a year are lost, primarily due to storms or boat propellers that accidentally cut the pots free from their buoys.
The marine debris removal was the first, and is the largest program of its kind in the country. The program costs roughly $1 million a year. It is funded by NOAA through blue crab disaster funds made available to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. VIMS handled the daily operation of the program and supervision of the participating watermen. The program ran from December through March 15.
Recovered ghost pots and other debris were GPS-located and photographed, and participant boat tracks were also recorded. All marine debris were disposed of in a safe and environmentally conscious manner or recycled.
Since the Marine Debris Removal Program began in December 2008, more than 28,000 lost or abandoned crab pots have been removed from the water, as well as 150 lost fishing nets and 1,300 pieces of assorted metal junk. More than 27,000 animals, many already dead, were found in crab pots retrieved since 2008.
This year’s haul of marine debris was more than in either of the last two years.
More information on the program’s results can be found on the program’s website http://ccrm.vims.edu/marine_debris_removal/index.html