OCEAN — A Carteret County-based coastal conservation nonprofit and partnered commercial fishermen are preparing to collect lost fishing gear.
The N.C. Coastal Federation is set to begin its seventh year of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project. According to an announcement from the federation Tuesday, 31 commercial watermen along the northern and central coast will set out this week into sounds to collect lost crab pots. The boat crews will conduct crab pot removal each day starting around Friday. Removal will take approximately one week.
“Every year, crab pots and other fishing gear are lost in our sounds in a variety of ways,” the federation said. “Lost gear can get hung up or drift into channels, creating hazards to boaters and wildlife. Since 2014, the federation has led the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project in an effort to remove lost crab pots from North Carolina sounds.”
With the help of various partners, commercial fishermen and women are hired to collect the pots during the no-potting period, which is the annual closure of internal coastal waters to all crab, eel, fish and shrimp pots.
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 of the coast, and district 2, which covers the central region of the coast and includes Carteret County.
Once the pots are collected, they are recycled to the best extent possible. Crab pots that are 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 N.C. Commercial Resource Fund Committee and the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Commercial Resource Fund Committee fund the project under the state Commercial Fishing Resource Fund Grant Program, and it’s intended to improve habitat, water quality and support coastal economies.
Manns Harbor project participant J.T. Outland said he and others have “all been hit pretty hard” recently.
“After a tough year of crabbing I am looking forward to this opportunity,” Mr. Outland said. “With this project not getting funded in 2020, I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of cleaning up to do. 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.”
NCCF coastal education coordinator and project lead Sara Hallas 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,” Ms. Hallas said.
The project is part of the federation’s overall effort to ensure the coast is free of marine debris. The NCCF said establishing an annual paid program for marine debris removal, including crab pots, is a key objective of the N.C. Marine Debris Strategic Plan.
More information on the progress of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project is available online at nccoast.org/crabpotproject.