Derelict Crab Trap Gear Modifications
Derelict Dungeness Crab Pot.

Project End Date: June 2016

In order to better understand the derelict fishing gear problem, the NOAA Marine Debris Program has supported research efforts to measure and address the impacts of derelict crab traps in Alaska’s Dungeness crab fisheries.

The program funded a two-year study of abandoned Dungeness crab traps, or pots, in Southeast Alaska to determine their abundance and what impacts they have on crab populations. This survey, led by the NOAA Fisheries Auke Bay Labs, used a combination of sonar and divers to determine the location of abandoned crab traps, how long they had been in the environment, and whether crabs were accidentally trapped and died in them - a problem known as "ghostfishing."

Building on the findings of the survey, the program again paired up with Auke Bay Labs to test escape mechanisms on Dungeness crab traps, via lab experiments. Investigators used results from a previous study showing pot lids remaining closed due to a main factor interfering with the ability of crab to escape, and in 2013, developed a project to mitigate it.

Using MDP funding, Auke Bay Labs is continuing to move forward with testing biodegradable panels in the field, and exploring additional ways to adjust crab pot rigging and design to reduce ghostfishing impacts. The results of this research could lessen the impact of a Dungeness crab trap once it becomes derelict.