Commercial fishermen retrieved 3,500 lost crab pots from coastal waters this winter. Storms and boating can cause buoys to separate from these wire cages, which makes the traps hard to find.
This year's collection numbers are down from 4,300 last year, according to Bree Charron, of the North Carolina Coastal Federation. She said Hurricane Matthew shook a lot of crab pots loose in 2016.
“They were finding them washed up in some marshes, they were getting places they couldn't reach last year,” Charron said. “So they really put in the effort to find a lot of pots that may have been out there for a couple years.”
The Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project is a partnership among the Coastal Federation, North Carolina Marine patrol, The Carolina Sea Grant, and commercial watermen. They used $100,000 appropriated by the General Assembly.
Charron said this lost fishing gear poses an environmental problem.
“So, if the pots are left in the water and not retrieved, then crabs and other wildlife can still get in there and become trapped," she said. "So, we consider that 'ghost fishing.' So that wildlife will die in the traps without being harvested.”