American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
The Foundation completed its stimulus-funded derelict fishing net removal project in December, 2010, completing the last of the surveys on New Year’s eve. 783.5 derelict fishing net removal days and 81.5 survey days were accomplished over the eighteen month project period by our four removal and survey vessels. The R/V Surveyor crew removed 342 nets over 141 work days (and accomplished most of our surveys). The F/V Twila Dawn crew removed 433 nets over 155 days. The F/V Tenacious crew removed 603 nets over 172 days. The F/V BetSea crew removed a whopping 1,139 nets over 311 days for a total of 2,493 nets removed. More than 140 entangled derelict pots were also removed.
More than 232 acres of critical marine habitat was restored by removing these nets. Found in the nets were more than 139,000 animals, including 12 mammals, 153 birds, 756 fish, and 138,444 invertebrates. Using a catch rate model developed by researchers at the UC Davis using data from our work, we can estimate that these nets were entangling more than 1.5 million animals every year, or 4,149 animals daily. The unseen death and destruction caused by these nets is now eliminated forever.
This project put more than thirty people to work in living wage jobs that included more than a dozen removal divers, five boat captains, numerous biologists, information technology specialists, bookkeepers, and waste haulers. The project injected 4.6 million dollars into the Puget Sound economy, with funding going to purchase project necessities such as removal and diving supplies, computers and software support, moorage, fuel and disposal services. Project logistics required the rental of a house in Friday Harbor where crews could stay when working in the islands.
Pictured at right is Ginny Broadhurst, Northwest Straits Commission Director sharing a light moment with Jeff June, Derelict Gear Field Manager at the end of a successful day removing nets in Puget Sound. Starting in 2002, over 3,800 partial gillnets (average size is 7,000 square feet) have been removed, eliminating the capture of over 1,200 marine mammals, 21,000 birds, 67,000 fish and 2,000,000 invertebrates each year. This number is based on a model developed by a U.C. Davis researcher, using all of the Northwest Straits removal data. The model is necessary, because, when a net is removed, we are only able to observe a glimpse of the toll it takes because a carcass will typically decompose or be eaten by other animals in about one week.
On May 18, USA Today featured on article highlighting the Northwest Straits Initiative's Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Program. Click "USA Today" to read the article.
On April 21, the day before Earth Day, Eric Schwaab, the director of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, joined the crew of the Surveyor II to observe a derelict net being removed near Bainbridge Island. Joining him were Sheila Babb from Senator Murray's office, Jen Steger from NOAA, Chris Townsend from the Puget Sound Partnership, a KOMO TV person and Ginny Broadhurst, director of the Northwest Straits Commission. To view the KOMO TV report that was aired on April 25, click "abandoned 'killer nets' destroying Puget Sound sea life"
The nets removed from Puget Sound so far would cover an area the size of more than 400 football fields. Fourteen areas are now totally free of all derelict nets. Click here to see a map of the cleaned areas. Lummi Island is also now completely free of derelict nets down to 100' deep.
This Derelict Net Removal Project was completed on schedule and within budget, achieving its goal of removing thousands of derelict gill nets from Puget Sound in just eighteen months.
The project also involved a complete overhaul of the derelict gear database and reporting system, allowing for easier data entry and accessibility. The database and reporting system went into operation on February 8, 2010.
You can view a species list that links to web sites that describe all of the species encountered in this project, with photos of most. Click here to view the table.
Our excellent Northwest Straits dive teams developed a way to recycle the chemically harmful lead lines from derelict gill nets. Now, Skagit River Steel has found a technique to strip the lines so the lead can be recycled. That keeps it out of landfills and lowers our disposal costs. We were able to recycle 13 metric tons of leadlines during this project. Thanks to all!
ARRA derelict gear removal final results: July 28, 2009 through December 31, 2010
Number of partial gillnets (average size, 7,000 square feet) removed: 2,493
Other derelict fishing gear removed (pots, nets, rings, etc.): 156
Number of removal/survey operations days: 865
Number of acres restored: 232.2
Number of marine mammals found in nets: 12
Number of birds found in nets: 153
Number of fish found in nets: 756
Number of invertebrates found in nets: 138,444