Derelict Fishing Gear Removal in the Caribbean

A fishing vessel loaded with derelict fishing gear.

The Ocean Foundation and Conservación ConCiencia are removing harmful derelict fishing gear from the waters around Puerto Rico while building capacity within the U.S. Virgin Islands to address marine debris in the region.

Type of Project: Removal

Region: Florida and the Caribbean

Project Dates: November 2020 - October 2022

Who is involved?
With the support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, The Ocean Foundation and Conservación ConCiencia are working with local fishers to remove harmful derelict fishing gear in Puerto Rico. Fishers from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will also participate in learning exchanges to share knowledge, experiences, and best practices to collaboratively address derelict fishing traps in the region. 

What is the project and why is it important?
Derelict and illegal fishing traps are a prevalent problem in nearshore waters around Puerto Rico. These traps can cause physical damage to sensitive habitats, such as coral reefs, while trapping, entangling, and killing target and non-target animals, including endangered and protected species. To combat this problem, The Ocean Foundation and Conservacion ConCiencia will collaborate with the local fishing industry to remove derelict fishing gear, particularly lobster and fish traps, from waters around Eastern Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra. During removal activities, data on the location, type of gear, weight of debris, cost of gear, disposal of gear, and species captured by lost traps will be recorded.

Due to their knowledge of local ecosystems, currents, navigable waterways, and fishing ground locations, local fishers are key partners for the efficient removal of these derelict fishing traps. Working with local fishers provides economic benefits to coastal communities by creating alternative incomes and promoting stewardship of marine resources. To further address the issue and broaden awareness of derelict fishing gear, the project will also conduct “fisher to fisher” learning exchanges and derelict fishing gear removal training sessions between dive fishers from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

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