Dozens of commercial fishers will scour select areas of North Carolina waters this month to find and remove potentially dangerous crab pots and other lost fishing gear.
The effort is part of the annual lost fishing gear recovery project, which has been coordinated by the North Carolina Coastal Federation since 2014, funded by the North Carolina Commercial Fishing Resource Fund Grant Program.
For the project that is intended to improve habitat, water quality and support coastal economies, commercial fishermen and women are hired to collect the gear during the annual January closure of internal coastal waters to all crab, eel, fish and shrimp pots.
“It’s really important to keep the sounds clean, and I’m glad to have been part of this project for many years. Keeping the sound clean keeps everyone happy,” Joe Speight, a project participant from Kitty Hawk, said in a statement.
Starting Monday, crews will be out 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on days that the weather is favorable in select areas within Marine Patrol District 1, which covers the northeast region, and District 2, or the central region. Each crew works between three and five days over the course of the month.
Once the pots are collected, they are recycled to the best extent possible. Crab pots recovered from the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds region during the project will be available for the rightful property owners to reclaim after the cleanup is complete.
Sara Hallas, coastal education coordinator with the Coastal Federation and project leader, said this project is crucial to ensuring we have a coast that’s free of marine debris.
“This project brings together unique partnerships for a common cause of clean waterways. It’s more than a win, win. This grant funding is from commercial fishing license fees, so the money that covers our program comes from commercial fishers and will be going right back to those who work with us to find and remove the lost gear.”
In partnership with North Carolina Marine Patrol, commercial fishers removed 1,995 pots last year from select North Carolina waters.
This project is part of the federation’s overall effort to ensure the North Carolina coast is free of marine debris. Establishing an annual paid program for marine debris removal, including crab pots, is a key objective of the North Carolina Marine Debris Strategic Plan.
For more information on the progress of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project over the past years, visit the website.