NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!


Leave a comment

Marine Debris Efforts Around the Country

We’ve spent the last year highlighting marine debris projects in various regions of the country. However, the NOAA Marine Debris Program also supports efforts that are national in scope. Check out some of the national projects that are currently underway:

The BoatU.S. Foundation is working to remove debris in both the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes regions. With support from a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant, they are working with two TowBoatU.S. towing and salvage partners to remove two large nets in Ocean City, Maryland, and to remove a derelict vessel in Lake Erie. They’re also assessing the impacts of some of this debris, as well as monitoring the effects of the removal. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

Pictures of derelict nets on a boat.

The BoatU.S. Foundation removed two derelict nets from Ocean City, MD as part of their project. (Photo Credit: Rick Younger)

The BoatU.S. Foundation is also working on preventing marine debris through a project supported by the Fishing for Energy program. Fishing for Energy is a partnership between the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Covanta, and Schnitzer Steel Industries, and administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. With this support, the BoatU.S. Foundation is working to prevent derelict fishing gear by developing a national education and outreach program to teach recreational boaters how to avoid set fishing gear. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

A close-up of derelict nets and ropes.

The BoatU.S. Foundation’s project through the Fishing for Energy program is working to prevent derelict fishing gear. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

Another Fishing for Energy-supported project is being run by the National Sea Grant Law Center at the University of Mississippi. This project is working to assess innovative methods for addressing derelict fishing gear from around the country, to determine if these methods could be implemented in other areas. They’re also working to identify opportunities to prevent gear loss due to interactions with passing vessels. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

A close-up of derelict crab pots.

The Fishing for Energy project with the National Sea Grant Law Center is working to assess derelict fishing gear programs. (Photo Credit: G. Bradt, NH Sea Grant)

Keep your eye on our blog as we continue to highlight marine debris projects from around the country throughout the year!


Leave a comment

Fishing for Energy in Washington State!

Lost or abandoned fishing gear can damage marine habitats, create hazards to navigation, entangle marine animals, and continue to catch harvestable species – a phenomenon known as “ghost fishing.” To prevent fishing gear from becoming marine debris, the Fishing for Energy program – a partnership between the Marine Debris Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Covanta, and Schnitzer Steel –places fishing gear collection bins at local ports, providing fishermen with a no-cost opportunity to dispose of derelict and retired gear.

To date, the Fishing for Energy program has placed gear collection bins at 48 ports in 10 states and has collected over three million pounds of fishing gear! Once the gear is collected, Schnitzer Steel sorts out recyclable metals and the remaining non-recyclable materials are converted to energy at Covanta’s Energy-from-Waste facilities.

Earlier today, the Fishing for Energy partners held an event in Westport, Washington to launch a new collection bin at the Port of Grays Harbor— the first bin in Washington State! The bin will not only collect gear from local port users, but also derelict crab pots collected by The Nature Conservancy and its partners – the Quinault Indian Nation and the Quileute Indian Tribe – as part of two NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Removal Grants.

Representative Derek Kilmer joined the media and interested local residents to learn first-hand about the new collection bin and the derelict crab pot removal projects. Events like these are a great opportunity to raise awareness about marine debris and educate communities about local solutions.

Fishing for Energy logo.


Leave a comment

Marine Debris Education in the Northeast

Marine debris is a pervasive problem throughout the United States. In the Northeast, it’s no different. Luckily, there are several projects underway to combat this problem. Focusing on prevention, the ultimate solution to marine debris, two of these more recent projects use education to stop debris in its tracks.

The From Shore to State House project, led by the University of Hartford and supported by the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP), has developed a college-level course which introduces students to marine debris. Students learn about the subject, participate in cleanups, and then talk to their local legislators about marine debris policy. The best part? The course materials are open-source, so other college instructors can replicate the program. Learn more about this project here.

The Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation (GOMLF), supported by the MDP, is also using education to combat marine debris. Working with a variety of partners, the GOMLF is developing a STEM education program that spans the Gulf of Maine. This program involves students, teachers, and local residents in a variety of hands-on education activities to learn about marine debris and its impacts. Learn more about this project here.

These are just some of the exciting efforts happening in the Northeast right now! Additional projects include those run through the Fishing for Energy program, a partnership between the MDP, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Covanta, and Schnitzer Steel. One such project focuses on addressing the challenges associated with identifying lost lobster pots—and uses side-scan sonar to do so (learn more here)! Another is educating recreational pot fishers about preventing gear loss through a series of educational videos (learn more here).

There are lots of cool things going on in the Northeast! Keep your eyes on our blog this week for more, and check out our website for more interesting marine debris projects in the Northeast and throughout the country!


1 Comment

New Jersey Event Highlights Derelict Crab Pot Removal Efforts

On Friday, February 26th, the NOAA Marine Debris Program and its partners held an event in Waretown, New Jersey, to highlight an exciting derelict crab pot removal effort in Barnegat Bay. The event highlighted a project, led by the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and supported by a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal grant, which is working to identify, retrieve, and inventory over 1,000 derelict crab pots from Barnegat Bay, N.J.

Covanta partnered with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey to provide two bins for collecting the retrieved derelict gear, to then haul and dispose of at their waste-to-energy facility. Covanta is part of Fishing for Energy, a partnership between the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Covanta, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Schnitzer Steel Industries. Through this unique partnership, bins to collect old, damaged, and derelict fishing gear have been placed at 44 ports in nine states and over 3 million pounds of gear have been collected and recycled.

The event offered an opportunity for media, congressional staff, and interested local residents to see first-hand how this project works to improve New Jersey waters. These types of events are important to raise public awareness of the marine debris issue and educate local communities about what can and is being done about it.


6 Comments

The Remarkable Results of the Crab Pot Escapement Study

By: Nir Barnea, Pacific Northwest Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program

Every year, about 12,000 crab pots are lost in the Puget Sound, mostly from recreational fishing. These lost pots can continue to capture marine life, a process called “ghostfishing.” Recreational crab pots may come in different models and designs, but all have an escape mechanism to allow trapped crabs to escape from the pot if it is lost. But— are all escape mechanisms equally effective? If not, can simple modifications make them more effective and decrease the ghostfishing problem?

An elegantly designed and collaborative study tested these questions. Thirty crab pots, representing ten commonly-designed recreational Dungeness crab pot models, were placed in water tanks at NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service facility in Mukilteo, near Seattle. Dungeness crabs were individually tagged (a total of 350 crabs were used!) and were placed in the pots. Food for the crabs was placed outside the pots, adding extra incentive for the crabs to escape. The escape mechanism was then activated (by cutting an escape cord which would disintegrate if left in the water for a period of time) and the number of crabs escaping from the pots was tracked daily for two weeks. The study was repeated three times.

The results were remarkable. In two models, nearly 100% of the crabs trapped in the pots escaped after the escape mechanism was activated. Another model allowed nearly 90% of the crabs to escape. But in the other three models, only 10% or less of the crabs escaped. Even two weeks after the escape mechanism was activated, 90% of the crabs remained trapped in those models. The study then explored modifications to increase escapement rates. The great news is that after implementing simple modifications and repeating the escape experiment, all pots achieved the desired nearly 100% escapement rate.

The study, a Fishing for Energy Partnership grant managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation with funding from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, was led by the Northwest Straits Foundation, in partnership with Natural Resource Consultants, NOAA Fisheries, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The results were shared with state agencies, and hopefully will contribute to gear modification and improvements of crab pot design and their escape mechanisms, and in a larger sense, reduce the mortality of crabs and other species associated with the loss of crab pots in the Puget Sound and elsewhere.

For additional information please contact Joan Drinkwin (drinkwin@nwstraitsfoundation.org), Kyle Antonelis (kantonelis@nrccorp.com), or Nir Barnea (nir.barnea@noaa.gov).

 

For more information on this project, visit the project profile page on our website.


2 Comments

Fishing for Energy Partnership Announces Grants to Support Marine Debris Prevention

Earlier today, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced this year’s grant awards from the Fishing for Energy Partnership. The NOAA Marine Debris Program is happy to be part of this collaboration, along with the NFWF and Covanta, to support the fifth round of grant awards, totaling more than $263,000.


The Fishing for Energy Partnership was launched in 2008 and works to reduce the amount of derelict fishing gear in U.S. waters by offering commercial fishermen a no-cost opportunity to dispose of old, lost or unusable fishing gear. This gear is then recycled and processed to generate electricity at Covanta Energy-from-Waste facilities. The mission is to reduce the adverse economic and environmental impacts of derelict fishing gear.

This year’s grant awards support projects to help commercial and recreational fishermen and boaters reduce the amount of fishing gear lost in the marine environment. The 2015 Fishing for Energy Partnership grants include:

Engaging Recreational Boaters in the Prevention of Commercial Fixed Gear Debris
The Boat U.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water
Fishing for Energy Grant: $105,699 | Grantee Contributions: $140,580
Educate recreational boaters nationwide about specific means of preventing boat entanglement with fixed fishing gear and provide best practices to explain how to responsibly respond when entanglements do occur. Project will explore the user conflict between recreational boaters and fishermen and develop effective practices and messages to enhance debris prevention efforts through formal and informal boater education.

Reducing Derelict Crab Trap Generation in South Carolina through Engagement of Recreational Boaters and Commercial Crabbers
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
Fishing for Energy Grant: $49,324 | Grantee Contributions: $19,241
Characterize crab trap float losses in South Carolina as a result of vessel strikes and engineer solutions to reduce the rate of annual derelict fishing gear accrual. Project will engage both recreational boaters and commercial crabbers to reduce the probability of severing crab trap floats when a boat collision cannot be avoided.

Reducing Derelict Gear through Educational Tools for Recreational Pot Fishermen in New England
Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries
Fishing for Energy Grant: $41,344 | Grantee Contributions: $3,663
Create a series of educational videos for recreational pot fishermen in New England. Project will demonstrate Best Management Practices for recreational fishermen and provide the education tools needed to reduce the incidence of derelict fishing gear.

Development of Side‐scan Sonar Methodology to Survey Derelict Lobster Pots in Sandy and Rocky Habitats in Massachusetts
Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries
Fishing for Energy Grant: $66,722 | Grantee Contributions: $10,672
Estimate derelict lobster pot density in Western Cape Cod Bay, Mass., using a full coverage side-scan sonar pilot survey. Project will develop a derelict lobster pot detection rate by using side-scan sonar on a known number of pots over both featureless and complex habitats.

To see the NFWF’s full press release, click here.


Leave a comment

Mid-Atlantic Region: Marine Debris Research

By: Leah Henry

The NOAA Marine Debris Program has been working to better understand the impacts of derelict fishing gear and other types of marine debris to our ocean and Great Lakes, here are a few of our Mid-Atlantic marine debris research efforts:

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center evaluates existing crab pot bycatch reduction technology, solicits technology feedback from local watermen, and creates a Chesapeake Bay-wide conversation to develop ghost pot solutions as part of a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Fishing for Energy program and with funding from the NOAA Marine Debris Program.  To learn more about this project visit our website.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science employs commercial watermen to compare catch rates of peeler pots outfitted with biodegradable escape panels to those with standard panels as part of a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Fishing for Energy program and with funding from the NOAA Marine Debris Program. Preliminary results suggest no adverse effect of biodegradable panels on peeler pot crab catch. To learn more about this project visit our website.

Global Science & Technology Inc. contracts with the NOAA Marine Debris Program in partnership with Versar, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and CSS-Dynamac to investigate the physical, biological, and socio-economic impacts of derelict fishing gear (DFG) in the Chesapeake Bay through a Regional Impact Assessment.  This project will develop an operational model, conduct a bay-wide impact assessment of derelict fishing gear, and create a framework guidance document for use in other regions. To learn more about this project visit our website.