Removing derelict crab pots in the waters of northern British Columbia

In northern British Columbia, many derelict crab pots occupy the waters of McIntyre Bay and Hecate Strait. Data from the commercial crab fishery in that region over the past 10 years indicates between 6% and 10% of traps are lost each year. Trap loss is an unfortunate consequence of the crab fishing industry and is generally due to severe weather when traps are moved away from the location of deployment by a combination of heavy winds, currents and large swells, after which the fisher cannot relocate them.

View our infographic showing the causes of ghost gear.

Despite having a well-managed fishery and undertaking stray pot removals each year, fishers in the area report that there are many stray pots underwater that have not been retrieved due to logistical and financial limitations. Lost crab traps can continue to “ghost fish”, cause navigational and safety hazards to other vessels in the area, detrimentally impact marine habitat or entangle the marine mammal species that occupy or transit through the area.

A juvenile Gray whale is breaching whilst entangled in a trap line off the coast of Mexico. The rope is caught in its mouth and baleen causing agitation and erratic swimming. Photo:Brandon Cole / naturepl.com

Our project

We are supporting a project with local stakeholders to start a derelict crab trap recovery project in the waters of northern British Columbia. This project will set the stage for a longer-term approach to recovering lost gear and addressing economic and ecological impacts of lost crab pots.

Crab traps that were removed during this project. Lost traps can continue to 'ghost fish' which can trap, injure and kill marine animals that get too close. Removing these old traps makes it safer for animals who live or pass through these waters.

This fisher-led approach to removing several lost crab traps in the area, will also trial a more systematic approach to data collection to document potential negative impacts of lost traps to catch revenue. Data about ghost gear bycatch, rot cord functionality and trap condition will be recorded for each trap. Potential future projects could involve trying new gear removal technology and working with local stakeholders to develop ways to avoid and prevent lost gear.

Recovering lost fishing gear can save thousands of dollars for local fishers, prevent gear conflict and protect the marine habitat. Data from this project will contribute to the Global Ghost Gear Initiative’s Build Evidence data portal which is currently in development, the goal of which is to provide global evidence of the ghost gear problem.

More importantly, by recovering these old traps, the animals that live and pass through these waters will be safer from entanglement.

Watch video footage from the project

Our partner, Joan Drinkwin, explains how crab traps are located and removed:

Video footage of a crab trap being removed:

Read more success stories like this one

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