While losing some gear is a normal part of fishing, few people think about the impact that this derelict gear has on the environment, killing an untold number of mammals, birds, fish, and invertebrates every year.
Recently the Northwest Straits Foundation took on the task of removing derelict fishing gear from Puget Sound with the help of financial support provided by the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. This enormous project was carried out for 75 days with the help of two separate vessels. Surveys were conducted using a high resolution, side scan sonar to identify nets and obstructions.
The organization was able to remove 172 derelict nets, crab pots and other debris from varying depths that were significantly degrading marine habitat. All removal followed state approved guidelines and was conducted in coordination with tribes and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. In addition, every animal, carcass, or bone found in or near the nets was documented – and the numbers were staggering. A total of 26,026 animals, or 104 species, were found entangled in the gear, including two mammals, 13 birds, 10 fish and 25, 801 invertebrates.
Especially affected by derelict fishing nets are Dungeness crab. The organization estimates that the nets removed were capturing and killing more than 14,000 Dungeness crab every year.
Although this situation is alarming – the long-term outlook for these habitats is now quite favorable. Previous clean-up sites that have been monitored have shown that marine habitat dominated by kelp achieved a 90 percent recovery over just one growing season through natural ocean processes.
This effort resulted in the restoration of 34 acres of important marine habitat - and the removal of a source of annual mortality and entanglement to more than 290,000 marine animals. The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund is pleased to support this internationally recognized success story.