Tray for fishing gear thrown in Waretown keeps it out of bay
The Conserve Wildlife Foundation and Fishing for Energy recently announced the addition of a new disposal bin in Waretown for marine debris to prevent it from entering Barnegat Bay.
The bin is also expected to be the collection site for several tonnes of abandoned crab pots recovered over a two-year period. Abandoned crab pots – also known as ghost traps – continue to kill sea crabs, turtles and fish as long as they are “lost” and therefore unchecked.
In 2021, CWF received a grant of $ 14,960 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to remove up to 5 tonnes of marine debris from Barnegat Bay, including abandoned crab pots, to reduce entanglements in ‘wild animals in the waters of the coastal marshes.
For two years, the ferry will be the resting place for several tons of abandoned crab pots recovered by students and volunteers. In New Jersey, local fishermen estimate that 10% of their crab traps are lost each year. Northern cruciform turtles, blue crabs, American eels, plaice, black bass, Atlantic croakers, perch, catfish, spot, tautog, oyster toad, whelks, black fish, rufous sponges and many other species are affected by ghost crab traps.
If a passing boat, a storm or simply an oversight causes abandoned “ghost” pots to litter Barnegat Bay, they continue to catch crabs and fish. Each captured animal is used as bait for the new animals. Those who cannot escape end up starving. According to CFW, one ghost crab trap contained 17 dead turtles.
The disposal bin will be placed and ready for collection at the end of winter 2022. Over the next several years, CWF aims to increase its participation in marine debris removal efforts to help provide clean and healthy habitats. safe for local wildlife.
Barnegat Bay is approximately 42 miles of brackish marsh and bay bordering Ocean County. The bay and the surrounding marshes are rich in vital resources. According to the 2012 Barnegat Bay Partnership Economic Report, Barnegat Bay, designated an estuary of national significance by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, contributes more than $ 4 billion each year to the regional economy. It is home to 560,000 people and over a million people during the summer months.
Part of this economic value is attributed to the formidable blue crab fishing in the bay. The NJ Fish and Wildlife Division estimates that commercial and recreational crabbers harvest approximately 6 million crabs per year from New Jersey waters. Barnegat Bay, along with Little Egg Harbor and the Mauritius River Estuary, accounts for approximately 65% to 86% of the annual recreational harvest. Recreational crabbers use a variety of methods, but generally rely on baited pots or handlines to fish for crab. Regulations exist for the use of the jars, but their unintentional loss has created an economic and environmental problem for all parts of the bay.
CWF, supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Marine Debris Removal Program, is directly addressing the problem by finding and removing abandoned crab traps from the water. The University of Stockton’s GPS grid and sonar images allow recovery teams to find exactly where the crab traps are. Inexpensive sonar can even be used by well-trained fishermen to find their own crab traps within days of losing them.
Over 1,300 abandoned crab traps have been recovered by the program in Barnegat Bay over the past two winters. Ultimately, the metal used in the crab pots is either recycled or used to create energy by business partners Covanta and Schnitzer Steel.
“This is a true environmental achievement as it tackles a serious ecological problem by creating ecological and economic benefits for the good of the great community of Barnegat Bay,” said the CEO of the CWF, David Wheeler. “Thanks to local fishermen and student volunteers, removing these deadly traps has prevented countless cruciform turtles and other endangered species from unnecessarily drowning. It also enhanced public safety by removing the dangers to navigation from the bay. “
Fishing for Energy is an innovative public-private partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program; Covanta, a global leader in sustainable waste and energy solutions; and Schnitzer Steel Industries, one of the largest metal recycling companies in the United States.
Primary funding for the Fishing for Energy partnership is provided by NOAA and Covanta Corp. Additional in-kind support is provided by Schnitzer Steel Industries, and gear innovation funding for the benefit of the North Atlantic right whale is provided by Shell Oil Co. –PJ