Cornell Cooperative Extension Addresses Derelict Lobster Traps in Long Island Sound
Derelict lobster traps removed from Long Island Sound.
Derelict lobster traps removed from Long Island Sound.

Project Dates: July 2014 - June 2016

What is the project?

Active commercial lobstermen, accompanied by two trained Cornell University Cooperative Extension (CCE) technicians, removed derelict fishing gear from deep waters of the Long Island Sound (LIS) in New York.

In addition to removing gear, CCE assessed and quantified the extent and distribution of derelict lobster gear. CCE technicians recorded the condition of bycatch ensnared in traps and created composite Geographic Information System data layers and maps of areas cleared of the traps. The salvageable derelict traps were returned when possible, and the rest were recycled.

Who is involved?
CCE led the effort with support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Community–based Marine Debris Removal Grant. Partners in this initiative included: The Village of Northport; Town of Brookhaven; Town of Southold; New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC); LIS Lobstermen’s Association; Covanta Energy; Gershow Recycling; and ULMAS.

What does it accomplish?
Derelict traps catch lobsters and other marine species, a process known as “ghost fishing.” Incidental mortality due to derelict or abandoned lobster traps is significant and can be minimized with the removal of derelict gear. This project’s goals were to remove over 100 tons of derelict fishing gear – approximately 5,000 traps – with the help of 130 volunteers, as well as study trap loss in thousands of underwater acres in the Long Island Sound.

What is something unique about the project?
In 2011, NYSDEC had 37,759 lobster traps reported as in use by lobstermen in Lobster Management Area 6. The lobster fishery closure period (September 8 - November 28) presents a unique opportunity of mandated commercial fishing inactivity to focus on the removal of derelict lobster traps. According to lobstermen from New York and Connecticut, these areas are known to contain significant amounts of derelict lobster traps. CCE partnered with LIS lobstermen to combat the logistical and cost difficulties in removing derelict/abandoned gear in the deep water regions of the sound.