Fishing for Energy Supports New Derelict Gear Innovation Projects
Blue crabs are caught in a derelict crab trap.
Crab traps continue to catch crabs after they are lost or abandoned.
The Fishing for Energy partnership supports four new fishing gear innovation projects to reduce gear loss and impacts.

JULY 17, 2014 --Fishing for Energy, the public-private partnership aimed at reducing the adverse effects of derelict fishing gear and marine debris, has announced nearly $300,000 in grant support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program. The grants will support projects that foster innovation in gear technology to reduce the loss of gear at sea and the impacts of lost gear. Fishing for Energy is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in partnership with the Marine Debris Program, Covanta, and Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc.

NOAA’s support will support four projects under the Fishing for Energy Fund:

  • The College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science will employ commercial fishermen to test biodegradable trap panels and study whether terrapin turtles avoid crab pots based on the color of the entrance funnel.
  • The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources will seek to reduce crab trap marker float loss across the fishery by testing different ways to rig the gear. Commercial crabbers will also be surveyed to better characterize annual crab trap loss rates in South Carolina.
  • The Smithsonian Institution, Environmental Research Center will engage watermen and state agencies to reduce the impact of Maryland ghost crab pots in the Chesapeake Bay. The project team will assess existing and new technologies aimed at reducing the amount of lost fishing gear in the context of local fishing practices and environments of the Chesapeake Bay. The team will also engage watermen to help identify which technologies under development and in use in other fisheries should be tested in the field.
  • The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Foundation will determine the escape rates of Dungeness crab from five different crab pot designs representing the breadth of designs used in Puget Sound. Results of the study will inform resource managers with the Washington Department for Fish and Wildlife, the Puget Sound treaty tribes and the leaders of the Puget Sound Anglers on the best performing designs and modifications that can be made to improve rate of crab escapement.

Every day commercial fishermen around the country deploy hundreds of traps and miles of nets into ocean and coastal waters to land their catches. Due primarily to circumstances beyond their control, like powerful weather events and disturbances from other vessels, some gear is lost to the sea. When this happens, fishermen lose both their gear and the associated profits. Moreover, the lost gear continues to capture fish, which degrades ocean habitats and wildlife. This phenomenon is called ‘ghost fishing’ and is an economic and environmental hardship to fishing industries and coastal communities. “By investing in innovative fishing gear technologies, we aim to prevent the negative impacts that ghost fishing and derelict gear can have on our natural resources and our economy,” said Nancy Wallace, director of the Marine Debris Program.