NEWPORT – A federal stimulus grant announced this week will employ Oregon off-season fishers, among others, to remove crab pots and other derelict fishing gear along the Oregon coast.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded the $699,184 grant to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) for removal of 180 metric tons of derelict Dungeness crab pots and other fishing debris. Contributions from the project partners bring the total project expenditure to $835,174.
Nearly 90 percent of the funds will go to create or maintain 48 jobs. Of those, 31 are targeted for commercial fishermen, who have been especially hard hit recently by high fuel prices and the national economic downturn.
Gear losses are a natural consequence of fishing in the challenging conditions that exist off the Oregon coast. While the short-term goal is to improve the habitat for Dungeness crab and other marine species, the long-term goal is to manage, and to find industry-based solutions to recover gear before it accumulates.
“This grant will help us not only address the direct marine debris problem we are currently facing, but also find ways to help the industry be better prepared to deal with the issue of marine debris,” said Steve Williams, Assistant Fish Division Administrator for ODFW. “In the future, funding of this type will probably not be available and the industry will need to address the problem directly.”
The Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, Oregon State Police and the commercial fishing industry are partners with ODFW in the project.
Called the Oregon Fishing Industry Restoration Partnership, the grant will pay for the charter of up to 10 fishing vessels to recover lost fishing gear over two field seasons. It will also pay for side-scan sonar work to locate cut-off crab pots in the mouth of the Columbia River. A reporting hotline, chartered over flights and opportunistic Coast Guard over flights will provide further location information for stray pots.
The project includes an intensive, voluntary industry clean-up effort as part of a long-term program. Seafood processors will also participate by storing recovered gear until it is reclaimed or recycled.
There is an education component to the grant as well. A film crew will document the search and recovery efforts and produce a film that will be shown to visitors of the Hatfield Marine Science Center among other places.
ODFW and its partners led small-scale derelict gear recovery efforts in the past. That experience will make this large-scale effort even more effective at providing benefits to the marine habitat and resources, such as reducing ghost fishing of Dungeness crabs and the risk of incidental entanglements of marine mammals.
Reducing marine debris is an important component of the West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health. Under this agreement, Oregon, Washington and California worked together with federal agencies and stakeholders and developed a set of actions to improve the health of the ocean and coastal resources of the West Coast. Addressing derelict fishing gear is a top priority of the strategy.