Crab pots recovered during a past lost gear recovery project.  Photo: Logan Prochaska


With the help of 25 commercial fishermen and women, the North Carolina Coastal Federation has begun efforts to find and remove potentially harmful lost fishing gear.

Since 2014, the nonprofit organization has led the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project to remove lost crab pots from North Carolina sounds. Lost gear can get hung up or drift into channels, creating serious hazards to boaters, wildlife, and other fishermen.

As part of the effort, commercial fishermen and women are hired to collect the pots during the annual closure of internal coastal waters to all crab, eel, fish, and shrimp pots Jan. 1-31 north of N.C. Highway 58 bridge to Emerald Isle.

Sara Hallas, coastal education coordinator and project leader, said this work is crucial to ensuring we have a coast that’s free of marine debris.

Photo by North Carolina Coastal Federation.

“This project brings together unique partnerships for a common cause of clean waterways. Commercial fishers are true experts of the local waters, with all the time they spend out there. It’s an honor to team up with them on this project, to ensure its success,” she said.

The 2024 project, which began Monday, is taking place in select areas within Marine Patrol District 1, which covers the northeast region of the coast, and District 2, which covers the central coast.

The boat crews will remove debris from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for three to five days, when the weather is favorable.

Once the pots are collected, they are recycled to the best extent possible. Crab pots that are recovered from the Albemarle and Pamlico Sound region during the project will be available for the rightful property owners to reclaim after the cleanup is complete.

“I’m glad to be involved and do my part to keep the sounds clean, it’s important for the blue crab fishery and much more. Without clean waterways, there would be so much at risk,” said Chris Lamb, a long-time project participant from Belhaven.

In 2023, commercial watermen and women in partnership with the N.C. Marine Patrol removed 2,077 pots from select areas within all three Marine Patrol Districts.

Funded by the North Carolina Commercial Fishing Resource Fund Grant Program, the project is intended to improve habitat, and water quality and support coastal economies.

This project is part of the Federation’s overall effort to ensure the North Carolina coast is free of marine debris. Establishing an annual paid program for marine debris removal, including crab pots, is a key objective of the N.C. Marine Debris Strategic Plan.


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