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New regional coalition teaming up to remove ghost traps from Gulf of Maine

A lobster trap that NOAA Fisheries uncovered in the Gulf of Maine.
Esta Pratt-Kielley
Maine Public
A lobster trap that NOAA Fisheries uncovered.

A group of New England based organizations is teaming up to remove lost and abandoned fishing gear from the Gulf of Maine.

They'll join forces as the New England Regional Fishing Gear Response and Removal Team, and recently received more than $2.7 million in federal infrastructure funds to get started.

Erin Pelletier is the executive director of the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation, which works with fishermen to remove ghost traps and large balls of rope and nets from the ocean. She said with this new group, her organization will expand their outreach to fishermen.

"Now we can form this coalition so that we can share our ideas and give feedback to each other on things that are working the right way, things that we should change and include the other players that we all work with," she said.

The Center for Coastal Studies, based in Provincetown, Massachusetts, is leading the coalition.

"It's a big ocean out there, and it would take 100 different groups doing this in every harbor up and down the coast of Maine to clean up the ghost trap issue," said Buzz Scott, founder and director of OceansWide.

His organization leads groups of students to dive for and retrieve lost lobster traps near Boothbay Harbor. Scott said OceansWide plans to expand their diving efforts to Matinicus and Stonington, among other spots off the Gulf of Maine.

It's unclear how much marine debris is lost and sitting on the ocean floor, partly because Maine doesn't require fishermen to report how many lobster traps are placed in the water.

"A lot of it happens because of storms, or because of recreational boaters that hit the buoys," Pelletier said. "They don't understand that they're attached to a trap, so if they cut the buoy off, the guys aren't going to be able to find their gear."

Lobster fishermen lose about 10% of their gear each year on average, though Pelletier said that's a rough estimate.

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