Makah Tribe Derelict Crab Gear Removal Project
Man pulling up derelict gear.
Project staff hooks the line of a derelict crab pot (Photo Credit: Makah Tribe)

This project removes derelict crab pots and lines from Tribal fishing grounds, develops a Tribal fisheries derelict crab pot reporting and recovery program, and conducts outreach to Tribal fishers and the community.

Type of Project: Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant

Region: Pacific Northwest

Project Dates: September 1, 2018 – August 31, 2020

Who is involved?

With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Removal Grant, the Makah Tribe Fisheries Management, in collaboration with the Makah Resource Enforcement, will remove derelict crab pots and lines from Tribal fishing ground. The removal area is within the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary as well as the Makah Tribe’s Usual and Accustomed Fishing Area. Removal operations will be conducted within approximately 80 square miles of marine waters, and focus on areas of high density of derelict gear from Tatoosh Island to the north to southwest of Cape Alava.

What is the project and why is it important?

Derelict crab pots in the marine environment continue to trap crabs and other animals, entangle and potentially kill marine life, smother habitat, act as a hazard to navigation, and interfere with other fisheries, such as salmon fishing.  Derelict fishing gear, such as nets or traps and pots, is one of the main types of debris impacting the marine environment today.

To address these concerns and reduce future gear loss, the Makah Tribe launched the derelict crab gear removal project. The project will conduct visual aerial surveys using fixed wing aircraft to locate derelict crab pots. Once detected, the Makah Fisheries Enforcement team removes the derelict crabs pots. For pots buried too deep in the sediment to be retrieved by pulling on their line, a cutter device is used to cut the line near the seafloor to remove the line and float and eliminate entanglement hazard to marine mammals and other animals. The retrieved crab pots and lines are brought to shore, where the crab pots are recycled for further use or for scrap metal, and the lines disposed of.  This project supports several actions from the Washington Marine Debris Action Plan.

In addition to the removal operations, the project is developing a Tribe-managed self-sustaining lost fishing gear reporting and recovery program to prevent re-accumulation of gear. The program is also conducting outreach to fishers and the community.