Crab Pot Escapement Study Underway in Washington

Researchers load pots into a tub for testing.

The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Foundation determined the escapement rates of Dungeness crab from five different crab pot designs in the Puget Sound.

Project Dates: June 2014 - November 2015

What is the project?
Ghost fishing from derelict crab pots is a significant source of crab mortality in the Puget Sound in Washington. Despite many pots having cotton escape cord mechanisms that disintegrate to allow trapped crabs to leave pots, up to 30,000 crabs are killed each year in pots whose design limits the ability of crabs to escape even when the pot's escape mechanism is activated. The Northwest Straits Foundation determined Dungeness crab escapement rates from five different crab pot designs, determining the most effective ones, and using the research to promote best fishing practices to state and tribal crab fishery managers.

What does it accomplish?
Study results were disseminated to resource managers with the Washington Department for Fish and Wildlife and Puget Sound treaty tribes and leaders of the Puget Sound Anglers. The Foundation provided a written report of the study with recommended best management practices associated with each crab pot design. Recommendations included modifications that can be made to each design to improve the crab escapement rate.

Who is involved?
This project is part of a Fishing for Energy gear innovation grant, administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

What’s something unique about the project?
The project included best fishing practices information into the annual Fishing Pamphlet produced each year informing fishermen of new regulations and fishing rules. This pamphlet reaches thousands of fishermen each year.