March 23, 2021

Side scan sonar plot of potential derelict fishing gear targets in Cape Cod Bay produced by the CCS Seafloor Mapping program.

The Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) begins field work this week to locate, remove, document, and properly dispose of lost, abandoned or discarded fishing gear in Cape Cod Bay.

Removal and Interception of Derelict Fishing Gear from Cape Cod Bay Right Whale Critical Habitat is an 18-month project operated by the CCS Marine Debris & Plastics Program with support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Fishing for Energy initiative. The gear recovery work takes place during the period when lobster fishing is prohibited in the bay to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales who are here in great numbers to feed in the plankton-rich waters.

To pave the way for the recovery project, the CCS Marine Geology Program conducts side-scan sonar surveys in areas where fishermen suspect lost gear likely exists. The survey data is then interpreted by sonar technicians and potential targets are charted to focus the recovery effort.

The project team communicates in real-time with the CCS Right Whale aerial survey and vessel research teams to be aware of and avoid areas in use by right whales on any given day.

Commercial lobster fishing vessels from Provincetown, Sandwich and Green Harbor are enlisted to recover the gear by grappling in the targeted locations.  Once returned to shore, the gear is sorted for recycling, disposal, or return to rightful owners.

Caption 1: Recovered derelict traps, also known as ‘ghost’ traps, on the deck of the F/V Adventure.

As a long-time partner in the program, Nauset Disposal provides containers for disposal and recycling.  This year, much of the waste will be set aside for use by artists who will use the old gear in their work.

This is the 8th season that CCS has conducted gear recovery work in Cape Cod Bay. The project will add to a regional database with information regarding the presence and prevalence of lost fishing gear, and will provide data on by-catch and gear functionality.  Previous removal efforts conducted by CCS in Cape Cod Bay have recovered over 40 tons of lost, abandoned or discarded lobster, gillnet, groundfish, trawl and recreational fishing gear, including over 1,000 lobster traps.

CLICK HERE for more information about the project, or contact Laura Ludwig, Marine Debris and Plastics Program, [email protected], or Owen Nichols, Director of Marine Fisheries Research, [email protected].

Contact Us

Entanglement Hotline: (800) 900-3622
[email protected]
(508) 487-3622
5 Holway Avenue
Provincetown, MA 02657
(508) 487-3623

Get Involved