Partnering with Fishers to Remove Derelict Fishing Gear in the Gulf of Maine

A large mass of derelict fishing gear getting hauled onto a vessel.

Ocean Conservancy’s Global Ghost Gear Initiative® will remove derelict fishing gear from Maine state waters in partnership with local fishers.

Type of Project: Removal

Region: Northeast

Project Dates: October 2020 - September 2022

Who is involved?
With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Ocean Conservancy's Global Ghost Gear Initiative, along with partners at the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation, will remove derelict fishing gear and large debris from identified hotspots  in three locations in Maine state waters: the Portland area of Casco Bay, the Harpswell/Orrs Island area, and the Southwest Harbor/Cranberry Islands area. This project will also build capacity amongst fishers and other stakeholders to implement best practices for managing gear and preventing and reporting gear loss. 

What is the project and why is it important?
In New England, fishing gear can be lost during heavy storms, from entanglement in other fishing gear, and accidental interactions with commercial or recreational boats. Once lost in the ocean, fishing gear can continue to trap and kill marine life and even compete with active fishing gear for catches. Fishers in the region report losing 10-30% of their lobster traps and associated gear (lines and buoys) annually, which become part of the growing accumulation of marine debris on the ocean floor if not retrieved. 

In addition to working with local fishers to remove 30,000 pounds of derelict fishing gear, partners will convene two workshops with fishers, policymakers, and conservation advocates to share best practices for reporting lost gear. Partners will also host an event at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum to engage new beneficiaries in gear-loss prevention efforts. Community involvement and education are essential to the success of gear removal efforts, which together will help to reduce the amount of derelict fishing gear in the Gulf of Maine.

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