Derelict Gear Removal

Derelict Vessels Removed from Snohomish River

Derelict Vessel in Snohomish RiverSnohomish County MRC staff and members worked with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to support removal of seven derelict vessels from the Snohomish River in September 2014.  This partnership between Snohomish County Public Works, the Snohomish MRC, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department and DNR provided almost $400,000 in state funds to help address a pollution and habitat concern that has impacted the Snohomish River estuary for years. To learn more about the DNR Derelict Vessel Removal Program, click here.

Ghost Pots of Puget Sound

Check out the MRC's new video about our work to remove derelict crab pots in Port Gardner.


What is derelict gear? Derelict crab pot removed from Port Gardner in October 2005.

Derelict fishing gear includes fishing nets, lines, crab pots, shrimp traps and other equipment that is lost or abandoned in the marine environment.  Research has shown that gear can continue to fish indiscriminately even after gear is lost or abandoned.  Derelict gear poses problems to marine animals and habitat, human safety, and the economic viability of Puget Sound fisheries (NWSI).  

Regional Derelict Gear Removal

In the Northwest Straits region, the Northwest Straits Initiative (NWSI) has conducted extensive derelict gear removal and research to document the impact of derelict gear.  As of September 30, 2013, the NWSI has removed 4,527 derelict fishing nets and 3,081 crab pots from Puget Sound.  These efforts have restored over 648 acres of critical marine habitat.  Derelict gear removal is an ongoing effort.  The NWSI estimates that fewer than 1,000 derelict fishing nets remain in shallow sub-tidal areas but there are an unknown number of nets found in deeper waters of Puget Sound.  Click here to learn more about the NWSI derelict gear removal efforts.A fraction of the 142 birds found in a derelict fishing net removed from Port Susan in 2008.

Impact of derelict gear

  • 12,000 crab pots are lost each year in Puget Sound.  These pots trap and kill 178,000 harvestable crabs (Antonelis et. al. 2011).
  • The NWSI has found and documented over 241,700 animals entangled in gear.  These animals represent more than 240 species.  A derelict fishing net removed from Port Susan in June 2008 contained 1,634 animals, including birds, fish, invertebrates, and a harbor seal.  The picture at right shows of fraction of the 142 birds removed the net.  Click here to learn more about the impacts of derelict gear documented by the NWSI.   

Read the NWSF factsheet on the MRC's Derelict Gear Work


In Snohomish County, the MRC focuses on preventing and removing derelict crab pots.  The MRC has supported derelict gear removals in an area of Port Gardner that is a common fishing area for commercial, Tribal, and recreational crabbing.  Gear removals involve locating derelict gear with sidescan sonar and using trained divers to safely remove the gear.  Removals took place in 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2011-2015.  See the links below for reports on derelict gear removals in Snohomish County.

Derelict crab pot removed from Port Gardner in May 2011.In May 2011, $50,000 in funding from WDFW resulted in the removal of 143 of the 163 derelict crab pots identified in Port Gardner by sidescan sonar.  Click here to view the map of derelict crab pots identified.  The majority of these pots accumulated since derelict gear was removed from the project area in 2009.  An article featuring the gear removal ran on the front page of the Everett Herald on May 13, 2011.       

The high cost of derelict gear removal emphasizes the value of prevention.  The MRC works to prevent crab pot loss through the Recreational Crabber Education Program.  In partnership with WSU Snohomish County Extension Beach Watchers, the MRC conducts outreach to local recreational crabbers to reduce the number of recreational crab pots lost in Port Susan, Possession Sound, and Port Gardner.  The MRC developed outreach materials that feature best management practices and notes potential hazards that can increase the likelihood of pot loss.

Derelict Gear Removal Reports 

Reporting derelict fishing gear

To aid removal efforts, report any gear you lose or derelict gear you encounter using the no-fault reporting system.  Click here to report lost gear.