Monday, April 25, 2011

Lost Crab Pots Found, Removed From Bay

10,000 abandoned crab pots pulled from Chesapeake Bay
More than 10,000 crab traps were plucked from Virginia waters over the winter under a program to remove abandoned pots from the Chesapeake Bay. The so-called "ghost pots" were removed by watermen who were paid $300 a day plus fuel expenses.
I think this is a worthwhile project, but I wish there were a way to motivate watermen to be more diligent about not losing crab pots in the bay (and elsewhere) to begin with.  To some extent, this is a make-work project designed to send money to watermen in a season when they have little to fish for.  The traditional main winter fishery is oysters, but with the oyster populations near historic lows, it won't support the level of effort necessary to keep many watermen working.  Maybe you could limit the watermen to a fixed number of pots, and if they lose one they fish with one less? Or put a high tax on the initial pots?  I'm not fond of either solution as they smack of government interference, which I would rather avoid.  On the other hand, commercial fishing is an industry in serious need of government interference. 

On the other hand, I'm quite sure I've accidentally cut a crab pot or two off with my prop.  Sometimes you just don't see them, especially at night, and when they're 50 yds apart for miles on end, they're hard to avoid entirely.  The pots continue to sit on the bottom and catch fish and crabs for years until the wire mesh rusts away, with the dying catch serving as the bait of the next round.
The numbers released Friday reflect an effort that began in December, after most blue crabs dig into the bay for their winter hibernation. Since the program's inception three years ago, more than 28,000 pots have been removed from the water.The wire mesh traps are called ghost pots because they continue to trap crabs and marine life after they are errantly cut from a waterman's buoy.
The cost of the program has received $3.5 million from the State of Virginia, so the cost per pot removed is about $125.  IIRC, the cost of new crab pots is significantly less than that.

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