A person on a boat looking at a tablet screen that shows the location of crab pots.

Assessing and Removing Derelict Crab Pots from a Recreational Fishery in Delaware

The University of Delaware is leading the removal of 1000 derelict crab pots from up to four heavily used recreational fishing areas in Delaware’s Indian River Bay. 

Type of Project: Removal

Region: Mid-Atlantic 

Project Dates: September 2020 - August 2022

Who is involved?
The University of Delaware's Coastal Sediments, Hydrodynamics, and Engineering Lab and Delaware Sea Grant will collaborate with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Delaware Mobile Surf-fishing Fishermen Club, Center for Inland Bays, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, and others to recruit volunteers and remove derelict recreational crab pots during the closure of blue crab fishing seasons. 

What is the project and why is it important?
Derelict blue crab pots can have a variety of impacts to the environment and the economy, creating navigational hazards, damaging habitats, and continuing to capture marine species, also known as ghost fishing. When derelict pots ghost fish, they can compete with active gear and reduce the catch of fisheries. Derelict blue crab pots are a particular problem within Delaware's Indian River Bay, but recovering these crab pots and other debris from this area can help reduce the impacts of derelict gear to the economy, as well as the potential for ghost fishing local species, including Summer Flounder, Bluefish, Atlantic Striped Bass, and Diamondback Terrapin.

The University of Delaware and Delaware Sea Grant will host six volunteer-based “round-up” events in Indian River Bay to remove 1000 derelict recreational crab pots across the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 closed recreational crabbing seasons, which span from December through February each year. Before each year’s event, the University of Delaware will identify the location of derelict recreational crab pots using side-scan sonars mounted to shallow draft boats and an unmanned autonomous vehicle to identify crab pot hot spots in the Bay and to identify removal locations. They will also determine how the presence or absence of derelict recreational crab pots might impact catch during the open blue crab season. Through this project, the University of Delaware will also educate the public and recreational crabbers and boaters on the impacts of derelict fishing gear in an effort to reduce the amount of crab pots that are lost and abandoned in the future.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.

Last updated Fri, 08/11/2023 - 14:50