A new study by researchers at William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science shows that a six-year program to remove derelict crab pots from lower Chesapeake Bay generated more than $20 million in harvest value for area watermen.
Lead author Andrew Scheld, an assistant professor at VIMS, says “it’s well known that derelict fishing gear can harm the environment and increase crab mortality, but the economic impacts of this ‘ghost fishing’ have rarely been quantified. Our study shows that VIMS’ collaborative efforts to remove ghost crab pots from the lower Bay led to an additional 13,504 metric tons in harvest valued at $21.3 million — a 27 percent increase above that which would have occurred had the pots stayed in place.”
|Economic effects of derelict pot removals Virginia blue crab harvest with (blue) and |
without (red) the Virginia Marine Debris Location and Removal Program.
Bands are 95% confidence intervals.
The study, co-authored by VIMS professors Donna Bilkovic and Kirk Havens, appears in today's issue of Scientific Reports, an online, open-access journal from the publishers of Nature. The research was supported by NOAA’ s Marine Debris Program.It's a good program, but if it's making the watermen that much money, they should be paying for it. I understand that "the tragedy of the commons" factor all but rules out crabbers looking for ghost pots on their own, but maybe a bounty system would work, where crab licenses are assessed a fee for each pot to be deployed, and a similar reward for each pot taken out of service, whether it was a recovered ghost or just reached the end of it's useful life. Kind of like a bottle deposit system.
The effort to find and remove derelict crab pots from lower-Bay waters ran from 2008 to 2014. Led by Bilkovic and Havens, the program was unique in that it employed commercial crabbers to find and remove derelict gear during their winter closed-fishing seasons. Crabbers lose pots to storms, boat propellers, and other causes.
“All told,” says Havens, “the crabbers removed 34,408 derelict crab pots during the program’s six-year run. At the same time, harvests and gear efficiency were observed to increase dramatically.”