In the Chesapeake Bay, commercial watermen have hauled 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.
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.
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. Recovered marine debris are disposed of 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.
More information on the program’s results can be found on the program’s website http://ccrm.vims.edu/marine_debris_removal/index.html