Session Chairs: Joan Drinkwin, Natural Resources Consultants

This session will highlight systematic approaches used by regulatory and resource management agencies and fisheries associations to regularly remove lost fishing gear.

This session will highlight systematic approaches used by regulatory and resource management agencies and fisheries associations to prevent impacts from lost fishing gear. Lost fishing gear represents approximately 10% of marine debris but has disproportionate negative impacts on marine species. Impacts of lost fishing gear include entanglement and death of target and non-target species, habitat degradation, navigation hazards, and loss of harvest opportunities for fishers. While preventing the loss of fishing gear should be the first priority of any program aiming to address this problem, some fishing gear loss is inevitable in any fishery. Therefore, an effective management program should include systematic measures to regularly locate and remove lost fishing gear as quickly after loss as possible.

This session will provide examples from a variety of net and trap fisheries in North America of programs involving the private sector, including commercial and recreational fishers, designed to locate and remove lost fishing gear on at least an annual basis. The session will cover the regulatory and/or programmatic framework needed to achieve regular removal of lost fishing gear and will cover lessons learned, challenges, costs, and funding.

Programs discussed will include systematic removal of stray shellfish pots by fishermen after commercial season closures; programs led by fishermen’s associations to remove lost gear; annual volunteer lost gear sweeps organized by resource agencies and engaging a wide network of volunteers; and a systematic lost net reporting system resulting in immediate response and retrieval of lost gillnets. This session will benefit conference participants by moving the discussion beyond impacts of lost fishing gear and beyond one-off removal projects to a deeper discussion of systematic solutions to this pervasive marine debris problem. This session may also provide ideas and insights into collaborative, programmatic solutions to other forms of marine debris.



A Permitted Crab Fishing Gear Recovery Program; Fisherman Working To Remove Marine Debris

presenting: Kyle Antonelis (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, United States); authors: Dan L. Ayres (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife , United States), Heather Reed (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), Kyle Antonelis (Natural Resources Consultants, Inc.)

The Washington coastal commercial Dungeness crab fishery, with 223 limited entry license holders, occurs in coastal waters extending approximately 140 miles from the US/Canada border to the Washington/Oregon border. Fishing occurs from the shallow near shore waters out 10 miles or to a depth of approximately 80 fathoms. The fishery is state’s largest coastal commercial fishery producing ex-vessel income up to $50 M (US).

The accumulation of marine debris caused by the loss of fishing gear – crab pots, lines and buoys is a long term issue for this fishery. The major causes are poor weather, strong currents, and buoy lines cut-off by vessel propellers. Gear loss during some seasons and in some areas can be significant.

In an effort to reduce marine debris without major expense to the agency, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) developed the Permitted Stray and Abandoned Gear Recovery Program. This program issues permits to licensed state commercial crab fishers to recover and retain any crab gear (pots and lines) remaining in the ocean following the close of the commercial fishing season.

Acting on a request from WDFW and representatives of the Dungeness crab fishing industry, the Washington State Legislature modified long-standing lost property statutes to allow for the legal retention of recovered gear. This has proven to provide sufficient incentive for fishers to participate in the program.

With their first-hand knowledge of where to find lost gear and how best to recover it, Washington’s commercial Dungeness crab fishers have made this program a successful tool in reducing lost and derelict crab gear along the Washington coast.

This program, first implemented in 2009 was the first of its kind and since has been used by Oregon, California and some Washington coastal tribes as a model to


The Texas Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program

presenting: Zachary Thomas (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, United States); authors: Zachary Thomas (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, United States)

Lost or abandoned, fishing gear represents around 10% of marine debris, and while there is always some fishing gear that is inevitably lost in any fishery, an effective clean-up program should include a systematic process to locate and regularly remove nets, traps, and other fishing gear as efficiently as possible. In Texas, abandoned or lost crab traps have been identified as a significant source of mortality for a variety of recreationally and commercially important non-target species. Additionally, these traps can have negative impacts on habitat, create navigation hazards, and become a source of visual pollution. The Texas Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program was created in 2001 with the passing of Senate Bill 1410 during the 77th Texas Legislative session giving the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) the authority to create a community-based program to systematically remove abandoned or lost crab traps during a 10-day crabbing seasonal closure. Consequently, in February 2002, TPWD planned and facilitated the first ever Texas Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program clean-up along the Gulf Coast in Texas. Since that time, for more than fifteen years, countless numbers of Texans have spent time on the water searching the bays for abandoned crab traps that have been left to foul shrimpers’ nets, snag anglers’ lines, “ghost fish,” and create unpleasant views. To date, over 3,000 volunteers have removed over 34,000 crab traps using over 1,000 vessels coast-wide. This presentation will showcase program overviews, program highlights, measures of success, and lessons learned in its fifteen years of existence.


Derelict Crab Trap Removal from BC’s North Coast – building on the steps of the commercial industry’s long standing practices

presenting: Amanda Barney (Ecotrust, Canada); authors: Amanda Barney (Ecotrust, Canada), Kyle Antonelis (Natural Resource Consultants), Dan Edwards (Area A Crab Association)

The Area A crab fleet of British Columbia’s north coast have been quietly setting the bar high for fisheries monitoring and gear tracking for over a decade. In the early 2000s, the Area A fleet pushed for, and paid for, the first electronic monitoring systems in BC’s crab fishery complete with video cameras and gear tracking technology. These systems not only allowed the fleet to eliminate issues of gear theft and tampering, it also provided harvesters and fisheries managers a way to monitor fleet and vessel trap allocations, soak times and location. Along with this EM technology, the Area A crab fleet has also been running a charter each spring in which commercial vessels and crews are hired and trained to collected data on crab moult timing so that their fishery closes when the male crab are most vulnerable and does not reopen until they are safe and marketable. During this yearly fishery closure the charter vessel does 1-5 days of gear clean-up throughout their fishing grounds using data points on lost or abandoned gear collected by skippers or by the EM systems.

In May 2017, building on the monitoring and charter operations long established by the Area A crab fleet, a derelict gear removal day was organized in one part of Area A, McIntyre Bay chosen since it is also an area with considerable use by the Haida Nation for Food, Social and Ceremonial harvesting and use by other recreational and commercial fisheries. The gear removal day was a success with two vessels and crews participating along with staff from WAP, NRC and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). The success of this one-day removal and the long standing success of the Area A charter and EM programs are due to the local knowledge and involvement of the Area A crab harvesters.


Newly Lost Net Reporting, Response, and Retrieval Program for Washington State’s Salish Sea, USA

presenting: Jason Morgan (Northwest Straits Foundation, United States); authors: Jason Morgan (Northwest Straits Foundation, United States), Joan Drinkwin (Natural Resources Consultants), Kyle Antonelis (Natural Resources Consultants)

Washington State’s Salish Sea (WASS USA) boasts a strong history of salmon fishing and still supports hundreds of commercial salmon gillnet and purse seine fishers. Most of these fishers are from the many native tribes residing in the region, who have treaty rights to half of the harvestable salmon in the area. The other harvestable half is divided between non-tribal commercial and recreational salmon fishers. The history of salmon fishing had left a legacy of lost gillnets and, to a lesser extent, purse seine nets, throughout the WASS, but concentrated in the northern rocky areas of the San Juan archipelago. The Northwest Straits Initiative (NWSI) began removing derelict fishing gear from shallow sub-tidal waters of WASS in 2002. As of December 2015, the NWSI removed more than 5,600 pieces of derelict gillnets from WASS. This large-scale removal operation took over twelve years.

While reporting of lost nets has been encouraged for many years, in 2012 the NWSI launched the Reporting, Response and Retrieval Program. Managed in partnership with Puget Sound Tribes and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, this no-fault, no-penalty program includes a robust reporting system, and a rapid response and retrieval process designed to ensure that newly lost nets are located and removed before they become derelict and cause unintended harm.

The RRR program was started with funding from the National Estuary Program and has been sustained by funding from a variety of grants. Since the program’s inception in 2012 through February 2017, the NWSI has responded to 103 reports. Reporting from citizens still predominates but reports from fishers has slowly increased. A marketing-style campaign was launched in 2017 to increase reporting from fishers. Response and retrieval are coordinated by a private sector consulting firm.


Fishermen-informed and led lost, abandoned and discarded fishing gear location and retrieval in California

presenting: Kirsten Gilardi (Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, United States); authors: Kirsten Gilardi (Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, United States), Jennifer Renzullo (Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center)

The California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project has been conducting lost, abandoned and discarded (lost) fishing gear recovery in partnership with commercial fishermen since 2006. To date, the Project has retrieved more than 100 tons of lost nets, pots, traps and fishing-related debris, the majority of it found and removed by fishermen. In Southern California, commercial urchin harvesters have been contracted for all in-water (SCUBA) gear retrieval work, and their underwater knowledge of lost gear “hotspots”, as well as information shared with them by other commercial fishermen, has driven site-selection for the majority of gear retrieval. The project has also implemented an innovative partnership with commercial Dungeness crab fishermen in Northern and Central California (with the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association in Eureka and the Commercial Fishermen’s Association of Bodega Bay) in which the associations are running gear recovery themselves, recovering lost gear their members have located and reported. As well, these fishermen are testing a financially sustainable model developed by our Project, wherein the associations pay member fishermen to collect gear and then “profit” through sales of retrieved gear back to the original owner, putting these funds in escrow to support future gear retrieval. As a result, Dungeness crab fishermen have collected more than 1,500 lost and abandoned Dungeness traps. The knowledge and practical experience of commercial fishermen has been the single-most critical key to the success of the Project since its inception.