Every year, wildlife and marine habitat suffer from the negative impacts of derelict, lost, and abandoned fishing gear. Derelict gear (crab pots, fishing line, nets, etc.) can capture or entangle wildlife (a process called “ghost fishing”), damage sensitive marine habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds, and cause hazards to navigation.
They say that too many cooks spoil the broth, but when the broth is derelict crab pots in Washington State, the more cooks the better. Over 10,000 crab pots are estimated to be lost annually in the Puget Sound alone, and many more are lost in the Straits of Juan de Fuca and along the Pacific Coast.
The growing tide of plastic debris in our ocean is partially due to the steady discharge of plastic by our rivers that drain into the sea. Plastics materials enter waterways from rural and urbanized areas located near riverbanks, and then travel downstream with the flow. Plastic comes in a variety of sizes and includes both macroplastics (large enough to be seen with the naked eye) and microplastics (not easily seen with the naked eye and are about 5 mm in size; about the size of a pencil eraser).
As we get ready to celebrate our nation’s 243rd Independence Day, the NOAA Marine Debris Program would like to take a moment to reflect on what makes this holiday so special for Americans and share a few ways to bring it into the 21st century without marine debris!