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Thousands of derelict crab pots litter bottom of Puget Sound

The Northwest Straights Foundation said every year 12,000 crab pots are lost in Puget Sound - mostly do to user-error - namely not weighting the pots, using the wrong line and unfamiliarity with tide and depth. A team of boaters spent Tuesday, May 29, 2018 cleaning up derelict crab pots near Anacortes. (Photo: KOMO News)

ANACORTES, Wash. - Some boaters spent Tuesday, fishing in Guemes Channel, off the shores of Anacortes, not for fish but for derelict crab pots.

Thousands of lost crab pots have littered the bottom of Puget Sound, posing dangers to crabs and other marine life.

"It's probably about the highest density we've seen. It's a quite a big number," said Jason Morgan from the Northwest Straits Foundation.

There are 614 lost crab pots littering the bottom of the waters off Anacortes alone.

The Northwest Straights Foundation said state funding is making cleanup and education possible.

Officials with the foundation said every year 12,000 crab pots are lost in Puget Sound - mostly do to user-error - namely not weighting the pots, using the wrong line and unfamiliarity with tide and depth.

"It's the perfect storm of a lot of vessel traffic, strong currents and some deep drop offs in this area. Kind of everything kind of adds up to direct crab pots loss," said Morgan.

They said the biggest thing they see is crabbers leaving their pots. They said the best thing to do is stay with your crab pots so they don't drift off.

Lost pots, both commercial and recreational continue to catch crabs, which often die. More crab come in to feast on them, and the cycle continues.

"We don't want to see crab get lost and lost gear that could either go to market or be out here helping the population remain stable," said Kyle Antonelis, a Natural Resources consultant.

The team relies on sonar or sound to capture images of the underwater pots and GPS to pinpoint the exact location for divers working in the cold and murky waters.

"It's very rewarding, especially when you pull stuff up right away you know you are making an impact right away," said Morgan.

The Northwest Straights Foundation has a goal of cleaning up 1,000 derelict pots this year.

They plan to invest more time and money on prevention education. A portion of the cost of every state crab license goes toward their efforts.


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