By Outer Banks Voice on January 10, 2022
This month, the North Carolina Coastal Federation launched its eighth year of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project. Twenty-four commercial watermen along the northern and central coast will set out into the sounds to collect lost crab pots.
Every year, crab pots and other fishing gear are lost in our sounds in a variety of ways. Lost gear can get hung up or drift into channels, creating serious hazards to boaters, wildlife and other fishermen. 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 annual closure of internal coastal waters to all crab, eel, fish and shrimp pots, January 1-31 north of the Highway 58 bridge to Emerald Isle. Starting on January 8th, the boat crews have been conducting crab pot removals from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. each day that the weather is favorable. Each crew works between 3-5 days over the course of the month.
In 2021, commercial watermen and women in partnership with N.C. Marine Patrol removed 3,128 pots from select areas within all three Marine Patrol Districts. The 2022 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.
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.
This project is funded by the North Carolina General Assembly this year. It is intended to improve habitat, water quality and support coastal economies.
“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. This project provides work during the closed season and that’s very valuable to me and many of the other participants,” shared Chris Forbes, a project participant from Hertford.
Sara Hallas, Coastal Education Coordinator for the federation and project leader, 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.”
This project is part of the Federation’s overall effort to ensure the N.C. coast is free of marine debris. Establishing an annual paid program for marine debris removal – including crab pots – is a key objective of the N.C. Marine Debris Strategic Plan. For more information on the progress of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project over the past years, visit our website here.