Educating Fishers to Reduce Derelict Gear in Massachusetts

A pile of derelict lobster pots.

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the NOAA Marine Debris Program partnered to develop a series of videos to educate recreational pot fishers about practices that can help prevent gear loss.

Type of Project: Fishing for Energy

Region: Northeast

Project Dates: July 2015 - December 2016

Who is involved?
This project was 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 Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MA DMF) worked with UnderCurrent Productions to develop a series of educational videos which can be used around the country, aimed at preventing derelict fishing gear.

What is the project and why is it important?
The recreational lobster fishery in Massachusetts is the largest in New England. It also has the largest participant turnover. While there is not a definitive estimate, it is widely understood that the amount of gear lost or abandoned from this fishery is substantial. This derelict gear can have numerous negative environmental and economic impacts including damage to habitats, the creation of navigational hazards, and ghost fishing. Ghost fishing occurs when derelict gear continues to trap and kill marine animals including harvestable crabs, resulting in lost catch opportunities and financial losses for fishers.

This project aimed to develop targeted educational videos to improve the knowledge and skill of recreational fishers. The aim was to reduce the number of lost or abandoned traps and associated buoy lines, subsequently reducing marine debris and its negative impacts. The educational videos were short, modular video segments that could be compiled into a full-length training course about proper lobster trap fishing techniques for fishers in Massachusetts. Additionally, the videos were being made into packages addressing state-specific pot fisheries and were being distributed to other coastal states. The videos may also be distributed to licensing offices, boat shows, supply stores, and other venues where recreational fishers may go. In addition to the videos, an online survey was developed to collect baseline information on the number of recreational lobster pots lost each year, as well as additional information about activity levels during the recreational lobster fishing season.