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Derelict Fishing Gear in the Pacific Northwest

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

To most residents and visitors in the Pacific Northwest, marine debris is what they see on the beautiful beaches of Oregon and Washington: items such as plastic consumer debris, commercial packaging, and even balloons. Luckily, agencies and NGOs including CoastSavers, Grassroots Garbage Gang,  Oregon SOLVE, and the Oregon Marine Debris Team have collaborated together and with the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) for years to prevent and remove this debris, much of it arriving from around the Pacific to the sparsely-populated Pacific Northwest coast. Another form of marine debris, derelict fishing gear, is less visible, but still harmful to the environment, commerce, and navigation. Derelict crab pots, shrimp traps, and lost nets and lines can entangle marine wildlife, harm the sea floor upon which they rest, pose a risk to navigation, and even threaten human safety.

Since its inception, the NOAA MDP has partnered with Pacific Northwest federal and state agencies, tribes, the fishing industry, non-governmental organizations, and academia to research, prevent, and remove derelict fishing gear. For instance, along the outer Washington coast, the MDP is working with The Nature Conservancy, whom has partnered with the Quinault Indian Nation, the Quileute Tribe, and Natural Resource Consultants to remove lost crab pots. If removal of the pot is impossible because it is buried too deep in the sand, the float line is cut and thus the entanglement hazard is eliminated. To focus on derelict nets in the Puget Sound, the MDP worked on  a multi-year removal project with the Northwest Straits Foundation, which removed over 5,000 derelict fishing nets, most of which were lost in the 1960’s and 70’s. Currently, the Northwest Straits Foundation is working with the MDP and fishermen to improve reporting of lost nets and remove them quickly. This project also developed short instructional videos for recreational fishermen, aimed at preventing crab pot loss in the first place.

Preventing derelict gear is the ultimate solution, and so the Fishing for Energy partnership has provided fishermen with reception bins to dispose of derelict fishing gear at no cost. In Oregon, Newport and Garibaldi have had bins for years, and recently a bin was placed in Westport, Washington. If not disposed of properly, derelict fishing nets can travel long distances and end up on remote and hard-to-access beaches. This is why providing a place to dispose of nets properly is so beneficial and if a net is lost, its prompt removal is very important. In Oregon, Oregon Surfrider and other organizations collaborate to respond to this type of removal need quickly.

Marine debris in all its forms is a big and growing global problem, and addressing it effectively requires good communication and collaboration on both a global and regional scale. In the Pacific Northwest, the recently-finalized Oregon Marine Debris Action Plan will contribute to reducing marine debris in Oregon, with a similar plan in the works for Washington. These documents will serve as guides to help Pacific Northwest marine debris stakeholders address marine debris effectively and collaboratively.


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Addressing Marine Debris in the Pacific Northwest: Harnessing the Power of Art

Like the rest of the country, the Pacific Northwest is unfortunately not immune to the impacts of marine debris. Luckily, there are many efforts in this region to address the marine debris issue, one of which focuses on the power of art.

Washed Ashore, an organization based in Oregon, works to prevent marine debris by raising awareness through art. After collecting debris on beaches and then cleaning and sorting it by color, the Washed Ashore group creates large and intricate sculptures made exclusively of marine debris. By building and displaying these sculptures, which mostly feature animals impacted by debris, this project aims to reach a broad audience to raise awareness of our connection to the debris issue and to inspire changes in our habits as consumers. Many of these sculptures now travel around the country as part of traveling exhibits, reaching broad audiences throughout the nation.

In 2014, Washed Ashore partnered with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to expand these efforts to achieve their ultimate goal of influencing behavior change. With support from a Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach grant, they worked to distribute educational materials at exhibit locations and develop a curriculum associated with their marine debris prevention through art model. Educator trainings helped to bring these activities and this message to classroom students.

The Washed Ashore Integrated Arts Marine Debris Curriculum was just recently released and works to educate students about marine debris, plastic use in our society, and how to prevent marine debris both individually and as a community. To view and download this marine debris curriculum, visit Washed Ashore’s website.

Keep your eye out this week for more in the Pacific Northwest!


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Oregon Marine Debris Action Plan Released

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

Over the years, Oregon’s agencies, NGOs, and industry have done remarkable work to prevent and remove marine debris along the Oregon coast, rivers, and nearshore areas. In order to address marine debris in Oregon even more effectively, Oregon marine debris stakeholders got together to create the Oregon Marine Debris Action Plan, and within a year, completed it.

The Oregon Marine Debris Action Plan, a collaborative effort of federal and state agencies, tribes, local governments, non-governmental organizations, academia, and industry, is a compilation of recommended strategies and actions to prevent, research, and remove marine debris in Oregon. Bringing together the Oregon entities working on marine debris, the Plan will increase coordination and collaboration in executing on-going and future actions, and help track progress over time.

The NOAA Marine Debris Program is proud to have facilitated this effort, and grateful to all involved. We are happy to announce that the Oregon Marine Debris Action Plan is now available on our website.

Cover of the Oregon Marine Debris Action Plan.

Check out the Oregon Marine Debris Action Plan!


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The Removal of the F/V Western

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

On December 21st, the F/V Western was pulled out of the water near the Empire Dock in Coos Bay, Oregon. The sunken vessel was brought to land and later disposed of, thus ending a long journey that started 82 years earlier. Unlike some abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs), we know a lot about the F/V Western’s history thanks to Toni Mirosevich, a Professor at San Francisco State University and the daughter of Anthony Mirosevich, the captain and owner of the F/V Western for twenty years.

In 1934, when the world was gripped by the Great Depression, a graceful, wood hulled, 69-foot long boat was launched in Tacoma, Washington. The vessel was purchased by the Mirosevich family from Everett, WA in 1945, named Western Maid, and set sail for salmon fishing in Alaska. In 1965, after Anthony Mirosevich passed away, his family sold the boat. At some point, it was converted to a crab fishing vessel and its name was changed to Western.

Over the years the boat’s condition deteriorated. It sank twice– once in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and the second time near Coos Bay, OR. In both instances, it was raised and given a new life. In 2015, the boat sank for the third and last time, adjacent to the Empire Dock in Coos Bay. It was located near a shipping lane and in an environmentally-sensitive area, so the F/V Western had to be removed to prevent additional environmental harm. The Oregon State Marine Board led the removal project, in collaboration with the Oregon Department of State Land and the NOAA Marine Debris Program. Billeter Marine, a local marine salvage contractor, conducted the removal.

The story of the F/V Western is unique, but not unusual. Boats, long past their prime, eventually sink, and their removal is challenging and costly. As part of the project, and to facilitate prevention of ADVs in Oregon, the Oregon State Marine Board in collaboration with Oregon Sea Grant initiated the ADV Task Force. The Task Force brings together many partners including port and marina managers, vessel owners, and fishermen to identify strategies to prevent commercial fishing vessels from becoming large and expensive pieces of marine debris. The ADV Task Force will draft a report that includes the group’s process, challenges, options for prevention, and recommendations. In addition, this project is creating an inventory of commercial fishing vessels along the Oregon coast that need to be removed. Using a matrix developed by the Columbia River Derelict Vessel Task Force, the inventory will include vessel location, ownership information, history, and condition to facilitate ADV removal in Oregon.

Hopefully the enduring legacy of the F/V Western will be the long-lasting benefits that the ADV Task Force will provide to Oregon and possibly to other states who face the persistent challenge of abandoned and derelict vessels.

For more information on this removal project, check out the project profile on the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s website.


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Derelict Net Removal in the Pacific Northwest: A Look Back

The NOAA Marine Debris Program 10 year anniversary identity marker.

 

Over the years of the NOAA Marine Debris Program, there have been many efforts around the country to rid our waters and shores of marine debris. As part of our ten-year anniversary celebration, let’s take a look back at one of those efforts in the Pacific Northwest.

 

The Northwest Straits Initiative— which is comprised of the Northwest Straits Commission, county-based Marine Resources Committees, and the non-profit Northwest Straits Foundation— has been a partner of the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) for many years. Starting way back in 2006, the Northwest Straits Foundation began to receive funding from the MDP to assess the impacts of derelict fishing nets to marine species in the Puget Sound. Through this project, the rate of mortality of marine species from derelict nets was analyzed and many derelict nets were removed from the inland ocean waters of the Puget Sound.

A derelict net with many marine animals caught in it.

The rate of mortality of marine species by derelict nets was assessed during the Northwest Straits Foundation project in 2006. (Photo Credit: Northwest Straits Foundation)

Since that initial partnership, these efforts have remained strong as the Northwest Straits Initiative continued to remove derelict nets for over a decade, having started their initial efforts in 2002 (before the MDP was even created!). The partnership with NOAA helped to strengthen these efforts. As the Northwest Straits Foundation took a leading role in addressing derelict fishing gear, over 5,000 derelict nets were removed from the Puget Sound, substantially reducing the amount of shallow water derelict nets in the Puget Sound’s priority areas. Now, it is crucial to reduce the creation of new derelict nets and gear by encouraging responsible use and quick reporting of lost items. This is why the Northwest Straits Initiative is continuing to focus on outreach and education efforts aimed to inform fishers and the public. Check out this recent prevention project, where they do just that!

Read more about this project on the Marine Debris Clearinghouse and on our website.


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Marine Debris in the Pacific Northwest

Like all shores around the world, the Pacific Northwest region is plagued by marine debris. Luckily, there are some pretty awesome efforts currently underway to combat this pervasive problem.

One such project is working to remove derelict crab pots from 20 square miles along the Washington Coast. With support from a NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant, The Nature Conservancy  and the Quileute Indian Tribe aren’t just removing derelict pots, but are also developing a sustainable lost pot reporting and annual recovery program, as well as conducting education and outreach! For more on this project, check out this blog or the project profile on our website. A similar project with the Quinault Indian Nation has been ongoing since 2014.

The Northwest Straits Foundation (NWSF) is also doing some exciting things in the Pacific Northwest! With the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant, they’re conducting outreach to tribal, commercial, and recreational fishermen and crabbers about the impacts of derelict gear, how to prevent gear loss, and how to report lost nets. These efforts include the development of informational videos that teach viewers how to properly rig and deploy their pots! For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

There are lots of cool things going on in the Pacific Northwest! Keep your eyes on our blog this week for more!


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Lost Crab Pot Removal by the Quileute Indian Tribe

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

“Come aboard, I’ll show you the boat,” said Lonnie Foster, a tribal leader with the Quileute Indian Tribe, and fisherman from a young age. The three of us— Kara Cardinal (Project Manager with the Nature Conservancy), Jennifer Hagen (Fisheries Biologist and Project Manager for the Quileute Tribe), and myself (representing the NOAA Marine Debris Program)— climbed aboard Lonnie’s boat, the F/V C.F. Todd, docked at the marina in La Push. We got a quick tour of the boat and the crabbing gear aboard.

When it comes to crab fishing, Lonnie has seen a lot: massive storms and monstrous waves (the height of the Dungeness crabbing season is in the stormy dead of winter), ocean currents so swift that they pull the crab pot floats under the sea surface, and of course, lots of lost crab pots. No fisherman wants to lose pots— they’re expensive. However, the Dungeness crab fishery, well-managed and sustainable otherwise, loses pots frequently— possibly up to 10% of the total average 100,000 pots fished in Washington State every year. That’s a lot of lost pots.

Jennifer and Kara with a stack of recovered crab pots.

Jennifer and Kara with a stack of recovered crab pots. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

This is why Lonnie, as well as other Quileute Tribes fishers, are part of a project to survey and remove lost crab pots in the fishing area of the Quileute Tribe. A collaboration of the Nature Conservancy, The Quileute Indian Tribe, and the NOAA Marine Debris Program, the project will use local knowledge on the location of lost crab pots, augment it with aerial surveys using a small aircraft to spot lost pots, and employ tribal fishers to recover the pots. Recovered crab pots in good shape will be reused, and non-usable pots will be recycled or disposed of.

A view of the La Push Marina.

A view of the La Push Marina. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

Most importantly, the Quileute Indian Tribe, like the Quinault Indian Nation which is involved in a similar project, is committed to addressing crab pot loss beyond this one project. The Tribe will develop its crab pot prevention, reporting, and removal program to help make a difference and reduce the number of lost crab pots out in the ocean.