Understanding the Derelict Fishing Gear Situation in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay
Losing gear is an unavoidable part of being a commercial fisherman. In today's modern world, some gear is made out of more robust and durable materials, allowing the gear to persist longer in the environment after it has been lost beneath the waves. It is important, then, that we understand the impacts of these derelict fishing gears. One documented impact of derelict fishing gear in fisheries around the world is the continued catching of animals in the gear, a phenomenon known as ghost fishing. Often, the animals trapped in lost gear starve to death.
SERC is currently looking into the impacts of lost and derelict blue crab pots in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay. The project focuses on gathering information from watermen, peer-reviewed journals, and agency reports in order to understand the issue better and to direct our future efforts. We are particularly interested in technologies and methods to address impacts of derelict pots, such as reducing pot loss, increasing pot recovery, and disarming pots after loss.
Participants of the Maryland Blue Crab Ghost Pot Workshop.
An important aspect of this project is engaging watermen and involving them in discussions about the pot loss issue and discussions about which directions to go next. In November, SERC held a Maryland Blue Crab Ghost Pot Workshop in which watermen from all over the state came to discuss with us their experiences with blue crab pot loss and recovery and to help us make decisions about which directions the project should move next. It was agreed by all present that prevention of pot loss is the best solution and many good ideas for public education and outreach were discussed. We also were able to pinpoint some research needs to help better understand exactly how blue crab pots are affecting or not affecting the Bay ecosystem. The waterman's input was very valuable in helping us understand this issue better.