by Emily Heiser, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, Conserve Wildlife Blog (December 8, 2018)
Derelict fishing gear continues to plague the depths of Barnegat Bay. Often lost through storm events or due to boat traffic, lost or abandoned crab pots (ghost pots) become an unintentional deathtrap for a variety of marine species and reduce otherwise harvestable resources. Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) and partners at the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES), Stockton University, and American Littoral Society have been working together to recover lost pots in Barnegat Bay since 2015. (Editor Note: This project grew out of a pilot project which was funded by the Barnegat Bay Partnership in 2012. Stockton University and the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve received the 2012 BBP grant to identify and map derelict crab traps via side-scan sonar surveys and to remove and dispose of derelict pots with the help of commercial crabbers.)
Over the course of the last three field seasons, 1,300 crab pots have been recovered and their bycatch (animals caught unintentionally along with the targeted species) has been extensively documented. Notably, CWF and MATES have been focusing on how to further help northern diamondback terrapins who often find themselves caught in ghost pots. In 2016, one pot contained the remains of 17 terrapins!
As the project partners enter the fourth field season of ghost pot collections, they hope to not only recover as may pots as possible, but also to glean further information on how the pots move in a variety of substrates and under a variety conditions. To bring further awareness to the issue, CWF teamed up with Citizen Racecar to produce a short informational film about ghost fishing and its effects on Barnegat Bay. Visit the CWF Facebook page to view the video.