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Project recovers lost crab pots from coastal waters

Commercial fishermen, including watermen who ply the waters of the Pamlico Sound and its tributaries in Hyde County and northeast Beaufort County helped recover 3,496 lost crab pots earlier this year.

Seventy-six commercial fishermen, participating in a statewide marine debris removal effort, recovered the crab pots in January. The Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project is led by the North Carolina Coastal Federation with $100,000 from the North Carolina General Assembly.

The project occurs during the no-potting period when all crab pots must be removed from the water due to fishing regulations. This cleanup was conducted in all three Marine Patrol districts — covering all internal coastal waters — for the second year. The project lasted from Jan. 17-27, with boats working anywhere from two to six days, depending on the Marine Patrol district.

This year, 24 boats made up of 48 commercial watermen picked up 2,245 crab pots in the Marine Patrol Division 1 waters, which cover the northeast section of the state from the North Carolina-Virginia line to Ocracoke.

This year in Marine Patrol District 1 — which covers the northeast region of the North Carolina coast from the Virginia line to Ocracoke —

“This project has established truly remarkable partnerships among different user groups,” said Sara Hallas, coastal education coordinator for the federation and project lead. “I’m proud both to be involved myself and of the federation for bringing everyone together. The combination of knowledge and expertise of these groups working together for a common goal is crucial to the project’s success, year after year.”

Pots typically end up lost as the result of large weather events. Lost pots can become hung in man-made structures such as bridges, or they can drift into channels over time, increasing the likelihood of buoy detachment by vessel traffic.

Commercial watermen are able to predict where lost pots may end up based on shifting currents and tides, and this project also creates opportunities for work during a slower time of the year because of colder waters and the multi-week crabbing closure.

“We are out working on the water almost every day and make a living off the sound. It takes care of us so we want to take care of it,” said John Silver, a waterman who annually participates in the District 1 cleanup.

The cleanup is held in partnership with North Carolina Marine Patrol, with additional financial support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

“We are grateful and appreciative of the assistance and support for removing derelict crab pots from coastal waters during the closed potting season this year,” said Marine Patrol District 1 in a statement. “The increased assistance from local watermen and the federation has helped free up Marine Patrol officers for other enforcement duties and assignments. This project has allowed the federation, the commercial fishing industry and the state to work together removing derelict pots from the water. We look forward to continued cooperation in the future.”

For more information about the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project, visit nccoast.org/crabpotproject or contact Sara Hallas at 252-473-1607.

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