Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘NOAA Marine Debris Program’

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.

395 Abandoned Crab Pots Removed from Barnegat Bay Estuary

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
CWF Spearheading Project to Recycle Dangerous Fishing Gear and Create Healthier Bay Ecosystem and Local Economy

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

A pile of abandoned crab pots before being processed at the WeCrab community day.

A pile of abandoned crab pots before being processed at the WeCrab community day.

Through a series of public and private partnerships, and with the help of the local fishing community, CWF is leading a project to inventory and remove more than 1,000 abandoned crab pots in Barnegat Bay. These derelict pots, lost from storms or cut lines, can have devastating impacts on the bay ecosystem and local economy.

 

A phenomenon referred to as “ghost fishing,” these traps will often continue to catch and kill marine life when abandoned, like the Northern diamondback terrapin and otherwise harvestable crabs. These lost harvests translate to economic losses for fishermen and the local community. The pots also disrupt navigation and damage sensitive ecosystems.

 

In the first year of our two year project, our partners removed 395 of these abandoned crab pots from the Barnegat Bay watershed, championed by local fisherman RJ Cericola and his crew. Almost 260 other pots were assessed but not recovered.

  • RJ Cericola: 204 abandoned crab pots removed
  • MATES: 103 abandoned crab pots removed
  • Stockton University: 64 abandoned crab pots removed (40 near Waretown and 24 near Mud Cove, Little Egg Harbor Bay, reflected in the map below)
  • Monmouth University: 24 abandoned crab pots removed
Abandoned crab pots recovered by Stockton University.

Abandoned crab pots recovered by Stockton University.

Starting in December 2016, we look forward to working with RJ Cericola, our new partner Jeff Silady — ReClam the Bay boat captain and local fisherman — and bringing on a commercial fisherman to reach our goal of 1,000 abandoned crab pots recovered.

 

Some of the recovered pots were stored at Stockton University Marine Field Station in Port Republic and were inventoried for data; broken down and recycled by volunteers this past Earth Day.

MATES students collecting data at community data.

MATES students collecting data at community day.

Scientists, students, commercial crabbers and other volunteers gathered on April 23rd for the WeCrab Community Day to record data, clean and prep the recovered derelict crab pots for recycling. The WeCrab Marine Debris Project is a partnership between the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve and Stockton University.

IMG_7465

 

Volunteers collected data on condition, cause of loss, weight, among other points. We are working to understand the impacts of abandoned pots and their distribution, gather information on the percentage of pots lost annually and also develop a long-term reporting system for lost pots and other fishing gear. Information collected from recovered pots help aid these efforts.

 

CWF’s abandoned crab pot removal project is funded by NOAA’s Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant. We are proud to work with our partners at the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental ScienceMonmouth UniversityStockton UniversityReClam the Bay, and volunteers. Conserve Wildlife Foundation is also working on an outreach campaign to raise awareness on the impacts of derelict crab pots and marine debris with additional funding from the New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership.

 

Learn More:

 

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

Marine Debris Makes Conserve Wildlife Foundation ‘Crabby’

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016
CWF leading the charge to provide free recycling and disposal of derelict fishing gear throughout the Barnegat Bay watershed

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

Abandoned crab pots unnecessarily trap fish and harm the marine ecosystem, according to the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ. (Image: NOAA)

Abandoned crab pots unnecessarily trap fish and harm other marine life. Photo credit: NOAA

 

Conserve Wildlife Foundation is proud to collaborate with the Fishing for Energy partnership — an innovative public-private effort that provides commercial fishermen a no-cost solution to recycle old and unusable fishing gear — to recycle an estimated 26,000 pounds of derelict crab pots and other marine debris collected throughout the Barnegat Bay watershed as part of a removal project over the next two years. On Friday, we celebrated our new project with our Fishing for Energy partners at a press event in Waretown, New Jersey.

 

Abandoned or lost fishing equipment can threaten marine wildlife, like diamondback terrapins, in a number of ways, including by damaging ecosystems as nets and heavy equipment settle upon the ocean floor and through “ghost fishing,” wherein gear continues to catch fish and other wildlife even if abandoned or lost. Gear also can impact navigational safety, damage fishing equipment and boats that are in use, and have economic repercussions on fishing and shipping enterprises and coastal communities.

 

In just six days, RJ Cericola and other local fishermen have collected over 160 abandoned crab pots!

Look at all the abandoned crab pots removed so far!

Look at all the abandoned crab pots removed so far!

 

“By recycling thousands of dangerous abandoned crab pots, our team is protecting vulnerable wildlife such as the diamondback terrapin, which inhabit the same shallow coastal waters in Barnegat Bay where pots are often lost or abandoned,” said Stephanie Egger, CWF wildlife biologist and principal investigator. “Terrapin population declines, reduced growth, and changes in sex ratios have been directly attributed to by-catch mortality in crab pots. We are so thrilled to work with local fishermen and all of our project partners, particularly the Fishing for Energy program, NOAA, and the New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership.”

 

This two-year marine debris removal project, led by CWF and supported by a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal grant, is working with local crabbers to locate and remove more than 1,000 derelict crab pots from Barnegat Bay. As part of this project, CWF is partnering with the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science, Monmouth University, Stockton University, ReClam the Bay, New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership (NJCWRP), and the recreational and commercial fishing community to identify, retrieve, and inventory derelict crab pots. The project is also conducting education and outreach activities on the impacts of derelict crab pots including the development of a lesson plan for schools, presentations for the community, developing informational print materials, and collaborating with the WeCrab education and outreach project led by the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve/Rutgers University and Stockton University.

MATES students collecting data on the derelict crab pots.

MATES students collecting data on the derelict crab pots.

 

“NJCWRP is proud to support this coalition of partners working on innovative projects to benefit the ecological quality of Barnegat Bay,” said Russell Furnari, chair, NJCWRP. “Removing thousands of these derelict crab pots not only enhances habitat, but also reduces navigational hazards, human health issues, and fishery impacts. We are thrilled to help provide outreach and educational campaigns to the local community, which will prevent additional lost pots and promote a deeper understanding of the bay’s habitat and wildlife.”

 

The Fishing for Energy partnership provided funds for the transportation and disposal of the gear found in Barnegat Bay through Covanta’s Energy-from-Waste facility in Union County, New Jersey. At the Covanta site, any metal found on the debris will be recycled and the remainder of the traps converted into clean, renewable energy that will power area homes and businesses. The recycled materials will be processed and converted into enough energy to power 2,200 homes for a month!

From left to right: CWF's Stephanie Egger, Covanta's Meg Morris, NFWF's Courtney McGeachy, and Covanta's Kristin Blake.

From left to right: CWF’s Stephanie Egger, Covanta’s Meg Morris, NFWF’s Courtney McGeachy, and Covanta’s Kristin Blake.

 

Fishing for Energy is a nationwide partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; the NOAA Marine Debris Program; Covanta, a New Jersey-headquartered sustainable waste and energy solutions company; and Schnitzer Steel Industries, one of the largest metal recycling companies in the United States. The partnership offers conveniently located collection bins for disposal of old fishing gear, making it easy for fishing communities – even small coastal communities like Waretown and Mantoloking – to deal with the issue of derelict gear. As a result, the partnership reduces the amount of gear that ends up in U.S. coastal waters and recycles and converts the remaining gear and debris into clean, renewable energy at Covanta’s Energy-from-Waste facilities.

 

Making Headlines: News Coverage from the Press Event:

 

Learn More:

 

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

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