Every year, crab pots and other fishing gear are lost in our sounds due to natural occurrences. The federation, and its local partners, wants to put them to good use.
In 2013, the federation received funding from the NOAA Marine Debris Program and North Carolina Sea Grant to galvanize a partnership with local commercial fishermen, the North Carolina Marine Patrol, local non-profits, scientists and community volunteers to collect marine debris in northeastern North Carolina. The federation then upcycles these recovered pots to build oyster reef habitats.
In 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly appropriated money to this project to facilitate a statewide expansion and hire greater numbers of commercial fishermen starting in January 2017. Read more about the 2017 project in this article from Coastal Review Online.
From Crab Pot to Oyster Reef
In January of 2014 and 2015, approximately 40 commercial fishermen total were hired to collect lost fishing gear. Fishermen were paid $400 per boat per day; work days averaged around three days per year. In addition, community volunteers participated in a yearly shoreline cleanup to remove lost fishing gear and other household trash from local hot spots.
During this time, a new restoration technique was tested — using recycled crab pots to create oyster reefs. The pots that were in good condition, yet unidentifiable, were upcycled to create the oyster reefs. A multi-faceted process, the pots are cleaned and all entryways are closed to prevent possible bycatch. The pots are then coated in a pH-balanced mortar that serves to both add weight to the pots while providing substrate for baby oysters (called spat) to land on. This “upcycling” was completed by several groups of college spring break students.
The federation worked with the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management and additional commenting agencies to secure the needed permits for recycled crab pot deployment. The pots were deployed as oyster reef at three sites around Roanoke Island in the summer of 2015.
Similar work has been done with remarkable success in Virginia and South Carolina. Further, Dr. Niels Lindquist and Joel Fodrie of UNC Institute of Marine Sciences have experimented with upcycled pots near Morehead City.
The federation received additional funding from the NOAA Marine Debris Program in 2015 to continue the crab pot project through 2017. New funding enabled commercial fishermen to be paid for an additional two years. Additionally, the federation was able to purchase new side-scan sonars and data collection tablets.
Check out this video and summary about the program from previous years:
SUMMARY, YEAR 1 and 2
- 41 fishermen employed in the following areas: Albemarle, Croatan, Currituck, Pamlico and Roanoke Sounds; Alligator River; Bulls and Kitty Hawk Bay.
- Nearly 1500 derelict crab pots removed
- 150 pots recycled into oyster reef habitat
- 100 pots recycled into an artificial oyster reef
- Read the federation’s final report that summarizes work from the 2014 abandoned fishing gear recovery project