10,000-plus derelict crab pots removed in ‘Ghost Pot’ program

by Bill Nachman - Posted on Apr 27, 2011 - 03:42 PM

Seventy out-of-work commercial watermen hauled more than 10,000 derelict crab pots from the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries last winter, the third year of Virginia’s Marine Debris Removal Program.

"Marine debris, if unchecked, has economic impacts beyond the waters in which it exists," said David Kennedy, assistant director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service, which oversees the NOAA Marine Debris Division.

During a ceremony at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science boat basin Friday afternoon, Kennedy said that "NOAA is proud to be involved in this ongoing effort to protect our Chesapeake Bay resources."

The Virginia marine debris program is the first in the country, Kennedy said, and combines 21st century technology like side-scan SONAR equipment with the ingenuity and work ethic of Virginia’s commercial watermen. The captain of each commercial vessel used in the program receives $300 per day, with a maximum of 50 work days during the winter, officials said, and the fee will be split with the crew; each boat captain is compensated for fuel costs.

Kirk Havens, assistant director of the Center for Coastal Resources Management at VIMS, said that the "ghost pot" program, as it is known, recovered 9,970 derelict crab pots this past winter, along with 52 lost nets and 532 other pieces of junk including a jonboat, a portable generator frame, and a large metal crate used to transport hunting dogs.

Havens said that much of the debris had likely been floating loose for several years, which could trap and kill crabs and a variety of fish and wildlife.