Preventing Debris and Crab Trap Loss in New Jersey with the WeCrab Project
A photo of a "Rig It Right" kit and a kit being used to rig a crab pot.
Recreational crabbers receive “Rig It Right” kits, which help them to properly rig commercial style pots. (Photo Credit: JCNERR; Steve Evert)

Rutgers University and the NOAA Marine Debris Program are partnering for the WeCrab project to educate and train recreational crabbers, teachers, students, and coastal users to prevent derelict fishing gear and other debris from ending up in New Jersey’s marine and coastal waters.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant

Region: Mid-Atlantic

Project Dates: September 2015 - August 2017

Who is involved?
With the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant, Rutgers University is leading a three-pronged effort to prevent derelict fishing gear and other debris from entering the local coastal and marine environment. They are collaborating with the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve (JC NERR) and Stockton University to develop teacher trainings and small-scale removal projects. In addition, Rutgers University is working with the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, the Tuckerton Seaport, and the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve to lead crab pot technique workshops. The WeCrab Project is also collaborating with Stockton University and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey to enhance their removal work with outreach efforts.

What is the project and why is it important?
The Mullica River-Great Bay Estuary and the Barnegat Bay Watershed are two unique environments in the JC NERR which are home to a diverse array of organisms. These coastal and marine environments attract nearly a half million summer visitors who use these resources for boating, fishing, and beach enjoyment. The heavy use of these areas can impact the environment in many ways, including the introduction of land- and sea-based marine debris. A common source of marine debris in this area is lost crab pots, which are commonly used by coastal residents and visitors for recreational crabbing, many of which do not know how to properly rig their gear. Pot loss can cause damage to critical habitats and lead to ghost fishing.

The WeCrab project is working to educate and engage recreational crabbers, teachers, students, and the coastal community to prevent recreational crab pot loss as well as other debris through a three-pronged approach:

First, the WeCrab project is working with recreational crabbers by holding crab pot workshops aimed to teach crabbers about marine debris and how to properly rig their pots. These workshops will also provide “Rig It Right” kits that crabbers can take with them.

Second, Rutgers University is partnering with the JC NERR to hold four two-day WeCrab teacher professional development trainings. These trainings aim to teach educators about local marine debris issues and crab pot removal projects, and train them to use North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA) and NOAA Marine Debris Program curricula in their classrooms. Educators who participate in these trainings will have the opportunity to receive marine debris stewardship mini-grants to develop and implement cleanups and stewardship projects with their students.

Lastly, Rutgers University is partnering with Stockton College on two small-scale crab pot removals in the Mullica River-Great Bay Estuary as part of two courses in Fisheries Management and Marine Survey Methods at Stockton College. These removals will culminate with two “Community Recycling Day” events, during which recovered pots will be broken down and recycled.

For more information on this project, check out this video and please visit the Marine Debris Clearinghouse.