Derelict crab pot removal begins May 20

More than 1,000 derelict crab and shrimp pots — double the expected estimate — were discovered in recent sonar surveys of Sequim Bay, Discovery Bay and the southern end of Dungeness Bay.

The location of 1,091 derelict pots is now known and hundreds of the abandoned traps are expected to be recovered and eventually recycled during a month-long schedule of dive operations to run daily, weather permitting, from May 20 to June 15.

All of this work is being funded by a $215,000 NOAA 2022 Removal and Prevention Grant awarded to deal with marine debris. To put the project into action, the North Olympic Peninsula chapter of Puget Sound Anglers is working with marine environment nonprofit InnerSpaceExploration, experts in sonar location.

The offloading work will overlap with halibut and shrimping dates, but the timing is not likely to create delays for halibut anglers or shrimpers. Still, the possibility exists and Anglers members want the public to know.

“Our main concern as we begin bringing the pots into John Wayne Marina is that we’re going to have to tie up the outside ramp for 30 to 45 minutes while the pots are being off-loaded and placed on the trailer to haul to our storage location at the Dungeness Hatchery,” Anglers member Dave Croonquist said.

“The recovery vessel is scheduled to arrive at the ramp around 4 p.m. each day. The efforts will be overlapping shrimp and halibut days.

“Hopefully, most folks will be off the water before 4 p.m. but we want folks to know that they might face a short delay in pulling their boat in the late afternoon.”

This effort is believed to be the first-ever attempt to discover derelict pots in these waters.

There have been other local removals, including a 2014 effort in Port Townsend that removed 280 crab pots from an 11-square kilometer stretch of Port Townsend Bay.

“To the best of our knowledge, Sequim Bay and Discovery Bay have never been surveyed for derelict pots nor has the area just in front of Sequim Bay off the Port Williams boat ramp,” Croonquist said.

“The Innerspace Exploration NOAA grant request anticipated finding 500-plus pots. The recently completed sonar surveys found 1,091 pots. Project permit time constraints won’t let us recover all the pots, but NOP PSA and ISE are going to get as many as we can.

“We’ll be trying for additional funding for future recovery efforts.”

It is believed that 25-to-30 pots can be removed each day, saving thousands of crabs, shrimp, sea birds and fish.

Other groups cooperating with the effort include the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, state Department of Natural Resources, Port of Port Angeles and the Jamestown, Port Gamble and Lower Elwha S’Klallam Tribes.

To report a lost pot, or for more information on statewide removal efforts visit PDN-Derelict23.