By: Dr. Gabriela Bradt, Guest Blogger
For the last 21 years, the New Hampshire Commercial Fishermen’s Association (NHCFA) has organized a comprehensive lobster trap cleanup along the entire New Hampshire (NH) coastline. Due to legal constraints, lobster traps that wash up on NH beaches may not be removed unless that removal is approved by either a New Hampshire Fish and Game Conservation Officer or the trap’s owner. As a result of this policy, few lobster traps are removed throughout the year, causing an accumulation of traps along the coastline over time.
Every year, commercial fishermen and lobstermen convene in Rye Harbor, NH in the early morning hours to begin the Spring Lobster Trap Cleanup. In collaboration with New Hampshire Fish & Game, New Hampshire Sea Grant, the Fishing for Energy Partnership and Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, these 40 fishermen collected the discarded lobster traps and associated gear shown above.
The trap cleanup is impressive, not only because of the number of traps removed, but because of the excitement, pride, and camaraderie shown by the fishermen throughout the event. Many of the participants have been involved from the beginning and are proud to share their 20 years of cleanup experiences. The volunteers understand that their collective effort makes a big impact. It brings a sense of community, accomplishment, and personal responsibility. Regardless of whose traps and gear wash up, they are dedicated to help one another remove them. The mounds of twisted metal and rope that emerge after several hours are consolidated and crushed, and then placed into Northeast Recycling bins through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant funding.
Once all of the gear has been collected from the beaches, the NHCFA thanks the participants with a cookout. This event is environmentally friendly and a great social event for the fishermen to reunite after the long winter months.
In 2013, the fishermen collected over 20 tons of gear. The final tally for this year’s trap cleanup was 6.38 tons. That is 6.38 tons of derelict fishing gear that will not make its way back into the ocean. Instead, that gear will be sorted and turned into energy at, Covanta, a waste-to-energy facility located in Haverhill, MA.
Dr. Gabriela Bradt is a Marine Fisheries Extension Specialist for NH Sea Grant and University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension