Derelict Gear Removal
Derelict Gear Removal

Derelict Gear Removal


In Snohomish County, the MRC focuses on preventing and removing derelict crab pots from the marine environment. 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 side-scan 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.

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.

What Is Derelict Gear?

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 capture fish and wildlife 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). 

Impacts 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. 

Learn more about the impacts of derelict gear documented by the Northwest Straits Foundation. 

Crab Pot Removal
Bird Carcasses from Derelict Net in Port Susan

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 June 30, 2015, the NWSI has removed 5,660 derelict fishing nets and 3,800 crab pots from Puget Sound.  These efforts have restored over 813 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. Learn more about the NWSI derelict gear removal efforts.


MRC Derelict Gear Removal Efforts

The Snohomish County MRC's efforts to remove derelict crabbing gear have resulted in the following:

  • The removal of 864 derelict crab pots from Port Gardner since 2004
  • Crab pot loss reduction from 130 newly lost pots in 2009 to 44 newly lost pots in 2015
  • Escape cord compliance for commercial crab pots increased from 68% compliance in 2005 to 79% in 2015
  • Escape cord compliance for recreational crab pots increased from 79% in 2005 to 89% in 2015

Fact Sheet: Snohomish County Marine Resources Committee Derelict Crab Pot Removal, Research, and Education (Northwest Straits Foundation)

Video: Ghost Pots of Puget Sound

Check out Ghost Pots of Puget Sound, a video about the MRC's work to remove derelict crab pots in Port Gardner.

Ghost Pots of Puget Sound - Transect Films

Derelict Gear Removal Reports (2003-2018)

Derelict Gear Removal