Our Program

Gear Removal to Date

As of June 30, 2015, the Northwest StraitBird in derelict fishing net. s Foundation has removed more than  5,660 derelict fishing nets and 3,800 shellfish pots from Puget Sound, restoring 813 acres of important marine habitat. 

More than 466,000 animals, representing more than 260 unique species, were found entangled in this gear. Species found include porpoise, seals, 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.

What’s Left

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:  Approximately 12,000 crab pots are lost and become derelict every year in Puget Sound, costing the fishery up to $700,000 in lost harvest revenue. Northwest Straits Foundation is working to address the problem of crab mortality in derelict crab pots, and to develop a strategic approach that reduces the negative impacts of crab pot loss. We support local outreach efforts to aimed at recreational crabbers to promote best crabbing practices. The Foundation recently completed a crab escapement study to investigate escapement rates of different styles of crab pot designs, to determine the most effective ones, and to use the research to promote best fishing practices to state and tribal crab fishery managers. We identified designs and low-cost modifications that are shown to be most successful at allowing crab escapement. Read more about our research and preliminary results of the crab escapement study in our March 2015 newsletter.

To see a map of crab pots removed as of July 31, 2014 click here. 

ARRA Project Complete

In 2010, the Foundation 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.

Our Goal

The Northwest Straits Initiative is committed to eliminating harm from derelict fishing gear in marine waters of Puget Sound.

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.

Media Coverage

Bellingham Herald - May 28, 2015

Pt Townsend Leader - July 2, 2014

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 to fulfill requirements of private matching funds for federal grants. Donations can be made online or through the mail. Read more...



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