NOAA, Virginia Institute Of Marine Science To Remove Debris From Chesapeake Bay

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Office of Response and Restoration, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), and state and local governments are committed to eradicating derelict crab pots and other abandoned fishing gear from the Chesapeake Bay, officials said on Sept. 5. During a recent event at the Freight Shed at Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown, Va., agency representatives highlighted an ongoing project to identify, map and assess crab pots and the stress they impose on the health and economy of the bay.

The project, named "Identification, Mapping and Assessment of Derelict Fishing Gear in the Chesapeake Bay," focuses on investigating the impact of derelict crab pots, also known as "ghost" crab pots, which are lost during storms or have been accidentally cut loose from their buoys by boat motors. They have a detrimental effect on the Chesapeake Bay as they continue to catch blue crabs and other important living bay resources without ever being retrieved. In addition to the loss of crabs, ghost pots create a hazard for boaters by adding to the debris in the bay.

"NOAA is proud to be involved in projects like this one that work to develop solutions to reduce the impact that marine debris has on our resources and environment," said Brigadier General Jack Kelly (Ret.), NOAA deputy undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere, in remarks at the Aug. 31 event. "This project highlights the true problem of derelict crab pots in our bay with more than 900 of them having been identified in the lower York River alone."

Ghost crab pots are a persistent problem in the Chesapeake Bay. Preliminary estimates of derelict trap densities for the surveyed portions of the Virginia and Maryland waterways are as high as 30 pots per kilometer for the York River in Virginia and 120 pots per kilometer for the South River in Maryland. Data gathered by VIMS and the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office researchers since last November suggest that ghost pots identified in the surveyed area of the York River trap 100,000 crabs per year. If this pattern exists in other parts of the bay, the loss of crabs to ghost pots could be equal to nearly 15 percent of the annual harvest. However, more data and survey areas are needed to quantify this impact, officials said.

Working together, NOAA and VIMS scientists are forging ahead with an assessment of these environmental hazards for fish, benthic habitat and vessel operators. They hope to assist in the creation of an improved management plan and policy for blue crab stock in the Chesapeake Bay while reducing economic hardship for working watermen and fishers and engaging them in bay restoration.

NOAA Office of Response and Restoration:

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

Download Center

  • Your Guide to Environmental Metrics that Drive Performance

    Translating sustainability into action starts with implementing the right metrics to assess your environmental risk and performance. Learn how to design metrics that improve your decision-making process and drive enterprise performance.

  • Unpacking ESG: 6 Questions You Were Too Afraid to Ask

    Environmental and Sustainability experts from Arcadis and Cority answer 6 of the most pressing questions EHS professionals have about getting started with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting.

  • 5 Keys to Best-in-Class Chemical Management

    Running a safe chemical program is challenging and complex: from knowing what's on-site to proper handling and disposal - all while navigating regulatory changes. Learn the best ways to mitigate chemical risk, get the most value out of your data, and gain buy-in for a chemical management solution.

  • Streamline Your Air Emissions Management

    See how consolidating all your emissions management functions into one centralized system can help you streamline your operations, more easily maintain compliance, and achieve greater time and cost savings.

  • A Crash Course in Creating the Right Environmental Scoring System

    Learn how to develop the right environmental scoring system so you can easily benchmark performance across all your facilities and gain a holistic view of your environmental programs.

  • Industry Safe