Preventing Derelict Fishing Gear Through Recreational Boater Education

Derelict nets in a pile.

The BoatU.S. Foundation and the NOAA Marine Debris Program teamed up to prevent derelict fishing gear by educating recreational boaters about strategies to reduce vessel interactions with active fishing gear.

Type of Project: Fishing For Energy

Region: National

Project Dates: August 2015 - August 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 BoatU.S. Foundation developed an education and outreach program to engage recreational boaters in learning how to prevent interactions with set fishing gear, and as a result prevent derelict fishing gear.

What is the project and why is it important?
Interaction between commercial and recreational vessels and set fishing gear is one of the main causes of derelict fishing gear (DFG). DFG can damage sensitive habitats, create navigational hazards, entangle marine animals, and continue to trap and kill various marine species including those that are harvestable (a phenomenon called ghost fishing), resulting in lost catch opportunities and financial losses for fishermen.

To prevent DFG as a result of vessel interactions, the BoatU.S. Foundation created an education and outreach program to educate recreational boaters. BoatU.S. conducted stakeholder interviews and focus groups in the New England, Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay, and Gulf of Mexico regions to identify the extent of boater/gear interactions, identify the main challenges that cause these interactions, and find any best practices that exist to reduce interactions and loss of gear. Educational messaging and communication materials were also tested with the focus groups.

The findings from the interviews and focus groups were used to inform the development of education and communication approaches and messaging strategies. BoatU.S. developed interactive tools including videos, animations, and infographics to use for informal education through their website, social media, and magazine, as well as formal education curriculum modules for their online boating safety course and online clean boating course.