Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Marine’ Category

CWF Releases New Video About Abandoned Crab Pots in Barnegat Bay

Saturday, June 30th, 2018

by Erin Conversano

Crabbing has been an annual tradition of residents and visitors to the Barnegat Bay region. Yet when those crab pots are abandoned or adrift, they can become death traps for local wildlife, including at-risk species like diamondback terrapin.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s new video “Fishing for a Cleaner Barnegat Bay” details this complex ecological challenge. Produced by Citizen Racecar, the video is now available to the public here.

Due to a passing boat, a storm, or simply forgetfulness, abandoned “ghost” crab pots litter Barnegat Bay, continuing to catch crabs and fish. Worst of all is that when animals get stuck in a crab pot, they attract more animals, which in turn also are trapped. Each animal caught acts as bait for new animals to come along.

Some fish species that get caught are blackfish and sea bass. And since the crab pots are just lying at the bottom of the Bay, they do not get emptied out. As a result, any fish that get caught in the crab pots can’t escape and end up starving to death.

Some bycatch findings in retrieved crab pots

Fish are not the only victims of the crab pot death traps – the famous diamondback terrapin, a turtle species that is currently experiencing an alarming population decline rate, also is a common victim of being trapped by abandoned crab pots. One crab trap has even been found to contain 17 dead terrapins.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem, as described in the video. Conserve Wildlife Foundation, supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Marine Debris Removal Program, is tackling the problem directly by finding and removing abandoned crab pots from the water. GPS grid and SONAR imagery from Stockton State University allows recovery teams to find exactly where the crab pots are located. Low-cost SONAR devices can even be used by well-trained fishermen to find their own crab pots merely days after losing them.

Over 1,300 abandoned crab traps were picked up by the program in Barnegat Bay over the past two winters. Ultimately, the metal used in the crab traps is either recycled or used to create energy by corporate partners Covanta and Schnitzer Steel.

“This is a true environmental success story because it addresses a serious ecological problem by creating ecological and economic benefits for the good of the greater Barnegat Bay community,” says CWF Executive Director David Wheeler. “Thanks to local fishermen and volunteer students, removing these death traps has prevented countless at-risk diamondback terrapins and other species from drowning unnecessarily. It also has strengthened public safety by removing navigational hazards from the bay.”

In addition to NOAA’s support for the project, the video was made possible by funding from the New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership. Other project partners and supporters include the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science – Ocean County Vocational Technical School, Stockton University, Monmouth University, American Littoral Society, Covanta, and ReClam the Bay.

Barnegat Bay Cleanup!

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

NJDEP’s 9th BARNEGAT BAY BLITZ SET FOR FRIDAY, JUNE 8, 2018

by Erin Conversano, CWF Intern

Would you like to help restore the health of Barnegat Bay’s ecosystem? You can participate in a day of action for the Bay! The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will be hosting its next Barnegat Bay Blitz clean-up day on Friday, June 8.

Join Conserve Wildlife Foundation and hundreds of other volunteers across the watershed, which includes all of Ocean County and parts of Monmouth County, in helping to clean up the Barnegat Bay Watershed and spread awareness about pollution that impacts the Bay. Clean-up events are happening all throughout the watershed!

To register for a clean-up, visit the DEP’s website.

Barnegat Blitz highlights include:

  • 31,582 volunteers
  • 4,579 cubic yards of trash and recyclables cleaned up
  • 37 municipal partners
  • 20 corporate and nonprofit partners
  • 2 llamas that help haul out the trash collected by volunteers

In the middle of Barnegat Bay, there are many small islands called Sedges. These islands are home to a number of species of plants and animals, but unfortunately are impacted by litter that the tide washes in. Volunteers by boat, kayak and standup paddle board will make their way out to many of these islands, including Island Beach State Park, Seaside Heights and Brick to sweep them clean of debris. Get involved!

It’s not just the bayfront communities that impact Barnegat Bay. Communities miles and miles inland also play a role. After all, we are all downstream! That is why at the Barnegat Bay Blitz, volunteers will work to clean up all over the watershed, from inland areas of Plumsted to the barrier islands. In Plumsted, a farming community, volunteers include more than just people! Llamas will also join the crew to help haul out trash and debris that volunteers collect from the Colliers Mills Wildlife Management area. To make friends with llamas, register for the Plumsted clean-up on DEP’s website.

Ghost Fishing

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

How CWF Is Fighting This Threat to Wildlife in Barnegat Bay

by Emily Heiser, Wildlife Biologist

 

For many coastal communities in New Jersey, like the Barnegat Bay region, winter is a time for rejuvenation and the preparation of our resources for a busy summer season.  It only makes sense that we also start to prepare the coast’s most precious resource – the bay.  

 

Barnegat Bay is approximately 42 miles of brackish marsh and bay bordering Ocean County.  The bay and surrounding marshlands are rich in vital resources that directly and indirectly support over 60,000 jobs and have an economic value of $2 to $4 billion dollars annually (Barnegat Bay Partnership Economic Report 2012).   

 

Pots are often heavily encrusted with organisms and can contain several different species of bycatch. @ John Wenk

Part of that economic value is attributed to the tremendous blue claw crab fishery in the bay.  The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife estimates that commercial and recreational crabbers harvest around 6 million crabs per year from New Jersey waters.  Barnegat Bay, along with Little Egg Harbor and the Maurice River estuary comprise approximately 65-86% of the recreational harvest that occurs annually.  Recreational crabbers use a variety of methods, but typically rely on baited pots or hand lines for crabbing.  Regulations exist for the use of pots, but their unintentional loss has created an economic and environmental problem for all portions of Barnegat Bay.

 

CWF, along with our partners, has been diligently organizing and executing what is essentially a cleanup of these pots within Barnegat Bay.  In 2015 and 2017, CWF was granted a NOAA Marine Debris Removal Program grant to support the removal of derelict crab pots, also know as ghost pots, from Barnegat Bay.  Over the course of the last three years, we have removed over 1,300 crab pots that have become a death trap for a variety of marine organisms, including diamondback terrapins and otherwise fishable blue crabs.  

 

Students from the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science assist in assessing pots after they’ve been pulled from the bay. @John Wenk

All of the fieldwork on this project occurs during the chilling winter months when only the hardiest of fishermen can be found on the water.   The blue crab season is open in most parts of the state from March 15th – November 30th leaving the coldest months to head out and collect pots that are not supposed to be actively fishing.  Several partners have made this project a possibility – the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science, Stockton University, Monmouth University, ReClam the Bay, American Littoral Society, and through contracts with local fishermen.  

 

Using side-scan sonar units, crews head out in early December to start looking for ghost pots.  Once a sufficient number of pots have been marked, waypoints are transferred over to retrieval crews.  Retrieving the pots sounds easy in theory, but can be time-consuming and success is dependent on many compounding factors such as substrate, weather, and tidal conditions.  Upon relocation of a surveyed pot, the captain must line the boat up to the best of their ability and with as much accuracy as they can, instructs the crew where to throw the grapple line.  Often you hear them call out, “Five feet – left center” and amazingly, the crew throws the grapple and hooks into a pot!  Depending on the substrate and how long the pot has been on the bay floor, it can be very difficult and dangerous to leverage out.  With the use of just the right amount of engine power, sunken pots can be delicately coaxed out of the water and lifted onto the boat by crews.  Once a pot is on the boat, a rapid assessment is done to look for unintended bycatch, pot design, and encrusting organisms.  Some of the various bycatch that has been found in pots include several species of crabs, lobster, flounder, tautog, and sadly, several diamondback terrapins.  One pot contained the remains of more than 17 diamondback terrapins.  

 

Ghost pots are disposed of by NFWF and Covanta’s Fishing for Energy Program where they will be recycled and turned into energy. @John Wenk

After a day of retrievals, the crew heads back to the marina where pots are placed in a disposal bin.  The bins are provided to the project through the successful Fishing for Energy Program run by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Covanta Energy, and Schnitzer Steel.  Gear collected from our port is stripped for recyclable materials at Schnitzer Steel and then non-recyclable material is turned into energy at Covanta’s facility in Rahway, New Jersey.  The holistic nature of this project breathes life into the term, “reduce, reuse, recycle”.

 

Barnegat Bay’s ghost pots exemplify an overarching issue of our environment, human-wildlife conflicts.  The Bay’s vital resources drive the economy and addressing these issues make us better stewards of the Bay and its resources.

Photo from the Field

Thursday, October 5th, 2017
The Lucky 8: Tiny terrapin hatchlings rescued!

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

A clutch of eight tiny terrapin hatchlings found beneath one of our X-ING signs. photo by Ben Wurst

While removing our seasonal (better late than never!) terrapin X-ING signs on Great Bay Blvd. in Little Egg Harbor yesterday, we stumbled upon some tiny northern diamondback terrapin hatchlings. These little guys were hiding or trapped under a very large (and heavy) X-ING sign made from old pallets that someone knocked over (I say guys because they hatched later in the season and it was a very cool August, but some could be girls). At first I didn’t see anything, but upon closer inspection I saw several hatchlings in the vegetation. One, two, three, four, five, six. Then I dug a little with my hand and found two more. The sign had been atop a nest. (more…)

Help Ensure Ospreys Have a Future in New Jersey

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

ACTION ALERT: Support ecological management of the most valuable public resource for our coastal ecosystem and economy

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Menhaden is a common food source for ospreys during their nesting season in New Jersey. Photo by Northside Jim.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is accepting public comment on the establishment of ecological management of Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), which is a keystone species. Basically, a keystone species is one that plays a large role in the ecosystem where it lives. If a keystone species is lost then the ecosystem would dramatically change or cease to function, causing widespread effects to other species that benefit. In New Jersey, ospreys have largely benefited from a healthy menhaden population as we’ve had relatively high reproductive rates (more than double what’s needed to sustain population) over the past decade. From 2006 to 2016, the population has grown by 30% and above the pre-DDT, historic milestone of over 500 nesting pairs. Around 82% of the state population of ospreys nests along the Atlantic Coast and we observe menhaden at a huge number of nests during our mid-summer surveys. If menhaden numbers drop, then we will likely see osprey numbers follow suite, as reproductive rates will decline, as they are in the Chesapeake Bay.

(more…)

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