New: Legislature Funds Final Push to Rid Puget Sound of Derelict Fishing Nets
The final push in our decade-long effort to clear Puget Sound of derelict fishing nets in shallow (<105’) water will get under way later in 2013 with funding approved by the Washington State Legislature. The state budget adopted in July provides $3.5 million for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to work in partnership with the Northwest Straits Foundation to complete the work.
State Rep. Norma Smith of Whidbey Island led the legislative effort to fund the net-removal initiative. “I am deeply grateful to my colleagues who helped achieve the goal of a $3.5 million appropriation for the Northwest Straits Foundation to remove the last of the legacy nets from the Puget Sound,” Smith said. “Lost in previous decades, they have had a devastating impact on harvestable natural resources and marine life. Once removed, because of the reporting requirements now in place, this challenge comes to an end. What an achievement!”
For the full press release, click here.
2012 Law Requires Reporting of Lost Nets
On March 29, 2012 Governor Gregoire signed into law Senate Bill 5661, making it mandatory for commercial fishermen to report lost nets to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife within 24 hours of loss. Mandatory reporting is expected to enable prompt location and facilitate removal of lost nets, thus helping to stem further accumulations of derelict fishing net gear. Pursuant to the new law, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will be implementing an emergency regulation effective July 1, 2012 that requires the reporting of lost nets within 24 hours using at least one of two reporting options: 1) a toll free derelict gear reporting hotline (1-855-542-3935), or; 2) an online reporting system managed by the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative (http://www.derelictgear.org/reportgear.aspx). The telephone number of the Northwest Straits Initiative that has been used to report derelict fishing gear can still be used by others reporting gear, but commercial fishermen must use the WDFW number or the online reporting system to comply with the new regulation.
Gear Removal to Date
As of October 31, 2013, the Northwest Straits Initiative has removed 4,562 derelict fishing nets, 3,081 crab pots, and 47 shrimp pots from Puget Sound, restoring 654.9 acres of critical marine habitat.
More than 326,000 animals, representing more than 240 unique species, were found entangled in this gear. Species found include porpoise, sea lions, scoters, grebes, cormorants, canary rockfish, Chinook salmon, and Dungeness crab. For a complete report of our progress to date, click here. To view of map of the locations where nets have been removed click here.
Nets: We estimate that fewer than 900 derelict fishing nets remain in shallow sub-tidal areas of Puget Sound, entangling and killing more than 600,000 animals each year. We are continuing removal operations as funding allows.
Deepwater nets: We also know there are untold numbers of nets in deeper water, possibly entangling endangered rockfish and other deepwater species and destroying habitat. Three species of deepwater rockfish, Bocaccio, yelloweye, and canary, are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. NOAA and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife identify derelict fishing nets as a likely stressor on these rockfish and recommend the removal of derelict fishing nets to help recover the species. Deepwater derelict net removal is also a Near Term Action identified in the 2012 Puget Sound Action Agenda.
The Northwest Straits Foundation is actively removing derelict fishing nets from Puget Sound in waters to 105 feet, but currently does not operate below that depth due to diver safety concerns. A June 2013 report, Deepwater Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Protocols: Identifying and Assessing the Feasibility of Removal of Deepwater Derelict Fishing Nets from Puget Sound, Washington was commissioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Protected Species Program and explores various deepwater removal protocols, including the use of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), grapples, and deepwater divers.
The most promising protocol identified in the report is the use of ROVs to remove deepwater derelict fishing nets. A pilot project to test this removal method in shallow water prior to testing in deeper water is recommended. Known nets in both shallow and deep water are identified for this pilot project. The Northwest Straits Foundation is currently seeking funding for this pilot project. The report was written by Natural Resources Consultants, the firm that manages the field work for the Northwest Straits Foundation’s derelict fishing gear program. Click here to view the full report.
Crab pots: More work is needed to prevent the loss of crab pots as well. Our research estimates that 12,000 pots are lost in Puget Sound every year. We support local efforts to conduct outreach to recreational crabbers on best practices in order to reduce the number of lost pots and ensure pots are rigged with biodegradable escape cord.
ARRA Project Complete
In 2010, the Initiative completed an 18-month project with $4.6 million dollars of economic stimulus funding from NOAA. The project enabled us to ramp up our removal operations from one boat operating part time to four full-time removal vessels. For more information, click here.
Derelict Net at Alden Bank
The video below shows underwater footage of a derelict net on Alden Bank in Whatcom County. Check out our video gallery for additional underwater footage.
The Northwest Straits Initiative is committed to eliminating harm from derelict fishing gear in marine waters of Puget Sound.
Map of Known Remaining Nets
What is derelict gear?
Derelict fishing gear includes fishing nets, lines, crab and shrimp traps or other equipment that is abandoned or lost in the marine environment. Such gear poses many problems to marine animals and people.
Read more about the impact derelict gear has in Puget Sound.
NOAA’s Marine Debris Blog -September 4, 2013
PRI's The World – July 8, 2013
Peninsula Daily News – July 1, 2013
KUOW – May 31, 2013
The Olympian – April 17, 2012
Seattle Times – April 8, 2012
KING 5 TV – February 8, 2012
KPLU – June 9, 2011
Everett Herald – May 13, 2011
Vancouver Sun – March 19, 2011
USA Today – May 18, 2010
NBC Nightly News – Sept. 29, 2009
New York Times – August 24, 2009
Campaign for Matching Funds
The Foundation is seeking funds for derelict gear removal from individuals, businesses and foundations through 2013 in order to fulfill requirements of private matching funds for federal grants. Donations can be made online or through the mail. Read more...