Marine Debris Removal Grant Used to Exorcise Ghosts of Crabbers Past

Ghost pots—crab traps that have been lost from storms or cut lines—damage sensitive habitats, create navigational hazards, and continue to trap and kill various marine species, including harvestable crabs (a phenomenon called ghost fishing). To remove these pots, commercial crabbers are working with Stockton University and Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve on a project funded by a NOAA Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant.

Since beginning in 2012, the project has employed side-scan sonar to map about 3,000 traps. Crabbers use the data to zero in on the ghost pots with their own equipment, and to date they’ve recovered about 1,500 lost traps. Those that are marked and in good condition are returned to their owners, and unusable traps are recycled. In addition to removal efforts, this project is conducting education and outreach activities focusing on recreational boaters and crabbers, and training commercial crabbers to be peer leaders in this effort.

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Partners: Conserve Wildlife Foundation, Great Egg Harbor Watershed Association, Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science, Monmouth University, NOAA, ReClam the Bay, Rutgers University, Stockton University