Island County Marine Resources Home Page

Derelict Gear Removal

Decade after decade throughout the 20th Century, hundreds of thousands of fish, marine mammals, birds, invertebrates and other creatures fell victim to a silent and invisible killer -- commercial and recreational fishing nets, pots and other equipment lost or snagged on the bottom of Puget Sound, where it continued to catch and kill, to the benefit of no one.

Our MRC was instrumental in calling attention to this slaughter and in launching the initial Puget Sound derelict gear removal project. Since 2002, the Northwest Straits Commission has managed the project, removing more than 4,400 derelict fishing nets, more than 2,750 crab pots and over 40 shrimp pots restoring over 600 acres of critical marine habitat. More than 300,000 animals, representing over 240 unique species, were found entangled in this gear. We partner with the NWSC in the ongoing work of locating and removing lost or abandoned gear from the waters around both Whidbey and Camano islands. According to one predictive catch model, those derelict nets were entangling 3.2 million animals annually every year they remained in the water.

The final push in the decade-long effort to clear Puget Sound of derelict fishing nets within 105 feet of the surface will get under way later in 2013 with funding approved by the Washington State Legislature. The state budget adopted in July 2013 provides $3.5 million for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to work in partnership with the Northwest Straits Foundation to complete the work. State Rep. Norma Smith of Whidbey Island led the legislative effort to fund the net-removal initiative.

Tons of these materials have accumulated in Puget Sound over many decades of human activity. They catch and kill harbor seals, porpoises, river otters, grebes, cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots, salmon, rockfish and Dungeness crabs, in addition to other life. They also pose a hazard to swimmers, boaters, divers and other recreationists.

For more information about the derelict gear program, visit the Derelict Gear Program section of the Northwest Straits Commission website.




Island County MRC | Island County Dept. of Natural Resources | PO Box 5000 | Coupeville, WA 98239-5000 | main (360)679.7350