Fishermen join sweep for ghost traps

Eric McCarthy
Published on July 4, 2014

NORTHPORT -- David and Jordan Lewis estimate they hauled a catch of about 30 pounds of lobster somewhere off Northport Friday morning. They couldn’t keep the catch, though, as the season in lobster fishing area 24 closed Monday.

Lobster fishermen from at least a half-dozen north side fishing ports signed on with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to assist patrol officers Friday morning in grappling for and remove gear left behind from the spring season.

Gear left in the water after a season ends continues to “ghost fish,” and the lobster that find their way in cannot escape, at least not until the biodegradable panels in the traps give way. David Lewis, a co-chair of the lobster advisory committee for LFA 24, suggested it could be August before the cotton twine stitched into the mesh lets go. That, he said, would be too late for the lobsters found in traps Friday. Most of the bait was already gone. Lobsters would eventually turn on each other in their struggle to survive, he explained.

“It’s great to see fishermen looking after their own resource,” Lewis assessed.

Officers in three fisheries patrol vessels accompanied the 13 lobster boats during the exercise.

From what he could gather, fishermen from all ports participating in the clean-up found some gear. The traps he found were tagged and there was a buoy line and buoy attached, leaving him to speculate the traps were not deliberately left behind but were lost. “It’s so easy to misplace gear: you just punch the wrong number into the plotter and the gear is lost,” he commented.

A fisheries officer said some of the found gear had already been reported as missing and will be returned to the owners. He suggested it would be easier to find misplaced gear now as random buoys show up better when there’s no longer a sea of other buoys around for them to blend in with.

Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association president Craig Avery also participated in the sweep but found no gear. He was, however, pleased with the volunteer effort and the message it conveys, that fishermen are looking after their industry.