Monday, July 6, 2009

Project will nearly eliminate deadly ghost nets in Puget Sound

Lost fishing nets trap and drown thousands of marine animals Lisa Stiffler

Lost fishing nets strewn along the bottom of Puget Sound have been drowning thousands of fish, birds, seals, crabs and other marine life each year. And some of these ghost nets have been silently killing creatures for a decade or more.

But now a local conservation group will have the support it needs to clean up most of the mess, thanks to a $4.6 million federal grant. 

The money, which comes from the federal stimulus package, will fund the Northwest Straits Commission’s effort to remove 3,000 lost fishing nets littering Puget Sound.

“Derelict fishing gear is a worldwide issue,” said Ginny Broadhurst, director of the commission. “We seem to have a particularly bad problem here.”

Over the past seven years, the group has removed 1,200 nets from the Sound and around the San Juan Islands by piecing together funding from smaller grants. With the large infusion that’s coming through NOAA Fisheries Service, Broadhurst estimates that 90 percent of the nets in local marine waters will be removed.

During the heyday of gillnetting, about 3,500 fishing permits were issued; that number is down to about 350 today, Broadhurst said. Her group estimates that with the reduction in fishing and improvements in technology, about 10 to 12 nets are lost each year.

“If we can just get this legacy stuff out of here we will have solved the problem,” she said. …

Project will nearly eliminate deadly ghost nets in Puget Sound

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