Event Title

Solutions to Derelict Fishing Gear in the Salish Sea

Presentation Abstract

Abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear is a small but damaging portion of plastic marine debris. Nylon used to make fishing nets of all kinds persists in the oceans indefinitely and can remain suspended or drifting in the water column and continue to entangle and kill marine animals and damage habitats. The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative (NWSI) has removed more than 375 metric tons of plastic commercial fishing nets from the Washington Salish Sea since 2002. The nets removed had entangled over 400,000 marine animals and degraded over 800 acres of marine habitat. Most of these nets were made of nylon. Nylon nets began replacing linen nets in the commercial fishery in the Salish Sea in the 1960s. In 2007, the NWSI estimated that 6,000 fishing nets had been lost in the Washington Salish Sea. In 2015, the Northwest Straits Foundation (NWSF), the non-profit partner in the NWSI, documented the removal of 5,668 derelict fishing nets from shallow, sub-tidal waters to 105 feet in Washington Salish Sea, or 94% of all nets estimated to have been lost. After years of extensive surveys and aggressive removals, the NWSF is now focusing its efforts on documenting impacts and removing nets from waters beyond 105 feet depth, and ensuring that newly lost fishing nets are reported and retrieved before they become derelict. In the Washington Salish Sea, most nets are thought to be lost through accident. Illegal dumping has not been found to be a problem but may have gone unnoticed since efforts have not focused in waters deeper than 105 feet. Nevertheless, strategies to eliminate harm from derelict fishing nets have focused on removal of nets after loss and prevention of loss through outreach to the fishing industry. To date, the reporting, response, and retrieval project put in place to prevent newly lost nets from becoming derelict has succeeded in removing 39 nets soon after loss, preventing damage to approximately six acres of habitat and preventing entanglement of an estimated 30,000 animals annually.

Session Title

Plastic in the Salish Sea

Conference Track

Fate and Effects of Pollutants

Conference Name

Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference (2016 : Vancouver, B.C.)

Document Type

Event

Location

2016SSEC

Type of Presentation

Oral

Contributing Repository

Digital content made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

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This resource is displayed for educational purposes only and may be subject to U.S. and international copyright laws. For more information about rights or obtaining copies of this resource, please contact University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9103, USA (360-650-7534; heritage.resources@wwu.edu) and refer to the collection name and identifier. Any materials cited must be attributed to the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference Records, University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Type

Text

Language

English

Format

application/pdf

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Solutions to Derelict Fishing Gear in the Salish Sea

2016SSEC

Abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear is a small but damaging portion of plastic marine debris. Nylon used to make fishing nets of all kinds persists in the oceans indefinitely and can remain suspended or drifting in the water column and continue to entangle and kill marine animals and damage habitats. The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative (NWSI) has removed more than 375 metric tons of plastic commercial fishing nets from the Washington Salish Sea since 2002. The nets removed had entangled over 400,000 marine animals and degraded over 800 acres of marine habitat. Most of these nets were made of nylon. Nylon nets began replacing linen nets in the commercial fishery in the Salish Sea in the 1960s. In 2007, the NWSI estimated that 6,000 fishing nets had been lost in the Washington Salish Sea. In 2015, the Northwest Straits Foundation (NWSF), the non-profit partner in the NWSI, documented the removal of 5,668 derelict fishing nets from shallow, sub-tidal waters to 105 feet in Washington Salish Sea, or 94% of all nets estimated to have been lost. After years of extensive surveys and aggressive removals, the NWSF is now focusing its efforts on documenting impacts and removing nets from waters beyond 105 feet depth, and ensuring that newly lost fishing nets are reported and retrieved before they become derelict. In the Washington Salish Sea, most nets are thought to be lost through accident. Illegal dumping has not been found to be a problem but may have gone unnoticed since efforts have not focused in waters deeper than 105 feet. Nevertheless, strategies to eliminate harm from derelict fishing nets have focused on removal of nets after loss and prevention of loss through outreach to the fishing industry. To date, the reporting, response, and retrieval project put in place to prevent newly lost nets from becoming derelict has succeeded in removing 39 nets soon after loss, preventing damage to approximately six acres of habitat and preventing entanglement of an estimated 30,000 animals annually.