Derelict Fishing Gear Prevention and Removal Best Practices
A pile of derelict crab traps. (Photo Credit: G. Bradt, NH Sea Grant)
(Photo Credit: G. Bradt, NH Sea Grant)

The NOAA Marine Debris Program and the National Sea Grant Law Center at the University of Mississippi are partnering to assess the transferability of innovative methods for addressing derelict fishing gear and to identify opportunities to prevent gear loss due to vessel interactions.

Type of Project: Fishing for Energy

Region: National

Project Dates: November 2015 - March 2017

Who is involved?
This project is funded through the Fishing for Energy partnership between the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Covanta, and Schnitzer Steel Industries and administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). The National Sea Grant Law Center (NSGLC) at the University of Mississippi is working with New England marine managers to identify opportunities to prevent gear loss due to vessel interactions and how to implement derelict fishing gear removal programs in New England states.

What is the project and why is it important?
Derelict fishing gear can damage sensitive habitats, create navigational hazards, entangle marine animals, and continue to trap and kill various marine species including harvestable species (a phenomenon called ghost fishing), resulting in lost catch opportunities and financial losses for fishermen.

To address the prevention and removal of derelict fishing gear in New England, the NSGLC is working with marine managers to better understand the legal frameworks governing derelict fishing gear around the country and how existing state marine debris programs are authorized. The NSGLC is compiling a profile of relevant laws and regulations related to derelict fishing gear for eleven coastal states identified as priorities by the marine managers. They are also developing legal case studies of derelict fishing gear removal programs from around the country and conducting a legal analysis to compare the case studies with existing legal frameworks in New England to determine how gear removal programs could be implemented there.

Additionally, the NSGLC is investigating the regulations surrounding the setting of fishing gear in and around boating and shipping lanes. Interaction between commercial and recreational vessels and active fishing gear is one of the main causes of derelict fishing gear. The NSGLC is examining the legal and regulatory opportunities to prevent gear loss due to vessel interactions in the region.