Next Generation Marine Debris Removal: Pairing Emerging Leaders and Technology for Restoration Success
Man with crab pots.
Southern New Jersey crabbers are working together to recover and prevent lost fishing gear (Photo Credit: Stockton University).

Stockton University is continuing fisher-led derelict crab pot removal from southern New Jersey coastal bays and bridging the generational gap through peer-to-peer mentoring of local crabbers.

Type of Project: Community Based Marine Debris Removal Grant

Region: Mid-Atlantic

Project Dates: August 2018- September 2021

Who is involved?
With the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant, Stockton University is pairing the next generation commercial crabbers with mentors from previously funded work to remove and recycle over 800 derelict crab traps from southern New Jersey coastal bays during the fishing off season. Through this project, commercial crabbers will provide the next generation of crabbers with training on the best practices to recover derelict gear, such as sonar, as well as training on how to prevent gear-loss.

What is the project and why is it important?
Over the past five years, Stockton University scientists have engaged southern New Jersey commercial crabbers to break the cycle of derelict crab trap loss and train them to use low-cost sonar methods to identify lost gear. Derelict crab pots can have a variety of negative impacts, including creating navigational hazards, damaging habitats, and continuing to capture marine species (known as ghost fishing). When harvestable crabs are caught by derelict pots, it can result in lost catch opportunities and financial losses for commercial crabbers. Derelict crab pots are a particular problem along New Jersey’s coastal bays and recovering derelict crab pots and other debris from this area can help to reduce the mortality of crabs, fish, and other species inadvertently trapped in derelict pots.

This project will implement peer-to-peer mentoring to train the next generation crabbers on low cost gear recovery methods, and by conducting best practices workshops at a local trade and exposition show for commercial fisherman. Combined, these training, recovery, and outreach efforts will restore NOAA trust resources, such as Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) for several estuarine species, and foster a stewardship ethic in future industry leaders.