Responsibly Responding to Fishing Gear through a Northeast Coalition

A colorful pile of derelict fishing gear.

The Center for Coastal Studies is leading a new coalition of nongovernmental organizations and commercial enterprises across the Northeast to remove, collect, document, and recycle, repurpose, or properly dispose of fishing gear from the Gulf of Maine’s water and shorelines.

Type of Project: Removal

Region: Northeast

Project Dates: July 2023 - June 2026

Who is involved?

With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program through Inflation Reduction Act funding, the Center for Coastal Studies is leading a new coalition of New England nongovernmental organizations and commercial enterprises, including the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation, Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, OceansWide, Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean, and Net Your Problem, in a collaborative project to remove or collect; document; and recycle, repurpose, or properly dispose of derelict fishing gear and end-of-life fishing gear from the Gulf of Maine’s water and shorelines. The project seeks to build capacity and share information and best practices across state lines.

What is the project and why is it important?

Once lost in the environment, fishing gear can continue to impact fish, crustaceans, marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds. This derelict gear can also damage sensitive habitats, cause problems for vessels by wrapping around rudders and propellers, ruin the gear of other fisheries, and compete with active fishing gear by trapping economically important species. 

No single organization can independently address the multiple issues created by derelict fishing gear or end-of-life fishing gear in the northeast region. By forming a regional coalition, partners across the Northeast will form a network that includes marine debris artists, for-profit and nonprofit enterprises, and waste stream diversion services, to share resources, reach across state boundaries, and establish replicable debris collection, data management, and disposal systems.

Partners are conducting at-sea sonar surveys; grappling for derelict fishing gear in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts waters; supporting diver-led gear removals of lost traps and other gear; surveying island and mainland shorelines using unmanned aerial systems; conducting large-scale shoreline debris removals; and facilitating end-of-life gear collection, processing, storage, repurposing, recycling, and disposal. 

Wherever possible, salvaged gear bearing owner identification will be returned to its owner. Non-usable rope, clean nets, and unclaimed buoys will be delivered to storage areas to be repurposed by fishermen or artists, packaged and shipped for recycling, or disposed of in waste-to-energy facilities. Lobster trap components including rigid plastics, bricks, and wire will be recycled or repurposed, as will steel dragger cable, bails, rings, and other metal fishing gear. Throughout this project, partners aim to process and dispose of more than 1,500 metric tons of derelict fishing gear and end-of-life gear.