I occasionally blog on more obscure things because I am naturally curious and like to learn. So:
From The Corner today:
Your Tax Dollars at Work [Veronique de Rugy]
According to FoxNews.com:
Commercial fishermen struggling from catch restrictions and high fuel prices are getting $700,000 in federal stimulus money to retrieve lost crab pots now littering the ocean bottom, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Friday.
The money will be used to hire 48 people — including 31 fishermen — and to charter 10 vessels to retrieve an estimated 4,000 derelict crab pots, which pose a hazard to whales, seal lions and fishing boats, Jane Lubchenco said.
That’s $14,583 per person/job or $175 per retrieved crab pot. Hard to gauge those numbers not knowing if this is a salary or commision job, or how long it will take to gather them all up.
I was curious to know if this ”hazard” is BS, so I searched out this article on the environmental impact of derelict gill nets and crab pots. The crab pot problem is described thusly:
Commercial and sport crabbers are required to use a biodegradable cotton rot cord (also known as escape cord) on their pots so that if pots are lost, the cord will degrade and crabs can escape. Our research shows that only about a third of crab pots are properly equipped with escape cord and many derelict pots are found to continue fishing for months and even years. On average, a derelict crab pot will catch about 72 crabs a year. Primarily, crab pots become derelict when their buoy line is clipped by a passing vessel. Pots are frequently found in vessel traffic lanes and boaters out after dark have a challenging time seeing crab pot buoys.
So, 72 crabs times an estimated 4,000 derelict cord-lacking crab pots is 288,000 crabs that are caught and die, uneaten and unenjoyed, each year. That, in itself, does seem like a terrible thing. And at $1.60 per pound on average (that’s off the boat, not wholesale or retail), assuming a per crab weight of 1 pound, it’s also $460,800 goes uncollected by fishermen. Or, at retail prices of $10 per pound, $2.88 million.
Anyhoo, apparently there is not much data on the hazard to whales, sea lions, and fishing boats due to derelict crab pots. I assume this means not a lot of whales and boats are being taken out by stray crab cages, despite all the hullabaloo. There was some data on the danger of the stray gill nets, though:
In 2008, the Northwest Straits Initiative removed a gill net with 162 seabirds, 14 salmon, 42 dogfish, 1,400 Dungeness crab and 1 harbor seal. Factoring in decomposition rates, it is estimated that this single net in 23 weeks time killed 1,800 birds, 450 salmon, 1,300 spiny dogfish, 16,900 crab, and 11 harbor seals. In an ecologically rich area like Port Susan bay, derelict gear can be a tremendous stress on the ecosystem and source of mortality.
That does seem bad. This organization seems to have done their homework and to be doing decent work, and I was interested to read about their “no fault” non-legislative approach to the problem of reporting stray gear:
Central to the success of the derelict gear program has been its grassroots nature and partnerships with commercial and recreational fishermen to locate and remove gear. The Commission takes a no-fault approach to derelict gear removal. Rather than assigning blame for the derelict gear in the marine environment, the Commission focuses on removing existing gear and preventing new gear from entering the water through non-regulatory means. This approach is based on the following assumptions:
• That the majority of the derelict fishing gear in Washington state waters is local or regional in origin;
• That the majority of fishermen are operating legally in Washington state waters;
• That fishermen do not want to lose expensive gear;
• That if they do lose gear it is for reasons outside of their control;
• That fishermen have a stake in recovery of lost gear that might otherwise impact the sustainability of their industry.
[Conclusion]: The no-fault approach encourages fishermen to report lost nets so that they can be removed quickly.
I wonder what improvement could be made to crab pot and gill net technology to reduce the loss ratio? Ideas?
In closing, here’s some trivia for all you crab pot geeks:
Derelict pots remove an estimated 74 Dungeness crab from Puget Sound each year. Dungeness crab larvae are a critical component of juvenile salmon diets.