Program Accomplishments 2002-Present
The Northwest Straits Initiative’s Derelict Fishing Gear Program goal is to reduce harm from derelict fishing gear in Puget Sound to insignificant levels. We have embraced an interim goal to clear 90% of existing derelict fishing nets from shallow sub-tidal high priority areas of Puget Sound by 2012. We estimate there have been 5,100 nets lost in these areas over the decades of fishing in Puget Sound. Below is a summary of our progress to date, through December 31, 2012. Click here to see progress made with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Derelict Gear Removals: shallow sub-tidal waters to 105 feet
• 4,358 nets removed
• 616 acres of net removed from marine habitat
• 2,889 derelict pots removed
Derelict nets contained more than 291,015 live and dead animals representing 270 different species including:
• 49 dead marine mammals
• 879 dead birds
• 3,606 live and dead fish
• 286,402 live and dead invertebrates
Using a mortality rates model developed using our data by UC Davis researchers, we estimate that the first 4,110 nets removed were entangling more than 2 million animals every year, including:
Marine mammals: 3.46 daily, 1,263 annually
Birds: 59.68 daily, 21,785 annually
Fish: 205.47 daily, 74,996 annually
Invertebrates: 7,146.53 daily, 2,706,528 annually
Deepwater Derelict Nets
Derelict nets occur in waters deeper than 105 feet, but we don’t know much about how many nets might be in those deeper waters, or what their impacts might be. With the recent listing of three deepwater species of rockfish under the federal Endangered Species Act, interest in the extant and impacts of deeper water derelict nets has increased.
In winter, 2010, the Initiative conducted a pilot survey for derelict nets in deepwater rockfish habitat in the San Juan Islands. The project verified locations of derelict nets and documented rockfish habitat.
We now have verified locations for more than 60 derelict nets in waters deeper than 105 feet. We are seeking funding to do further investigations of impacts of deepwater derelict fishing gear, including shrimp pots, and to pilot removal methodologies.
• 7 diver training classes conducted (5 Department of Defense, 2 Tribal)
• 78 divers trained: 66 DOD divers and 12 Tribal divers
How we prioritize our operations
Our program goal is to reduce harm from derelict fishing gear in Puget Sound to insignificant levels. We have embraced an interim goal to remove 90% of legacy derelict fishing nets from shallow sub-tidal high priority areas in Puget Sound by 2012. High priority areas are areas where derelict nets cause the most damage and danger to human safety, navigation, marine species, and marine habitat. These areas include coastal reaches throughout Puget Sound where high relief bottom substrate likely to snag nets coincides with areas of present and historic high gillnet fishing effort. These high priority areas make up about 628 miles of Puget Sound’s 2,500 miles of shoreline, or 25% of Puget Sound. The Initative has surveyed all of these high priority areas for derelict nets. Results of those surveys indicate there remain 1,000 derelict nets in those areas.
We understand that derelict crab pots are still being lost at alarming rates each year by commercial and recreational fishermen. We are working in partnership with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to remove derelict crab pots from areas where loss is highest and where the concentration of derelict crab pots may be causing localized impacts to the crab resource.
At left is a map of high priority areas identified for shallow sub-tidal derelict fishing net removals in Puget Sound (click on image for larger view).