Abandoned or lost crab pots are an annual environmental challenge, one that the Northwest Straits Foundation faced yet again Tuesday.
Aboard a boat near Everett on a windy and choppy morning, computers guided divers to spots with derelict crab pots on the floor of Puget Sound.
Northwest Straits Foundation estimates that about 12,000 crab pots are lost each year. Sometimes that number climbs to 14,000.
The pots keep fishing after they've cut loose from holds. Crab continue to pile in but then run out of food and eventually die. Around 180,000 harvestable crabs are lost to derelict pots each year.
On Tuesday, one trap had 11 Dungeness crabs inside. Most of them were dead.
The loss of crab is not just economic. It can have effects on the ecosystem as many species feed on crab larvae.
“Typically with this kind of barnacle growth we know it’s been over a year,” explained Kyle Antonelis.
The derelict traps are just a part of hundreds of tons of marine debris trash in Puget Sound. In our target area alone, officials count 270 lost crab pots.
Traps can take decades to decompose and not much is known about their long term effects on marine life, but crews say acting now is critical.
“Cause we don’t want to wait and find out the hard way that we should’ve been doing this,” Jason Morgan said.
Northwest Straits tries to return gear to its owner, but often the traps have been in the water too long and are no longer viable.
For more information on how to crab more sustainably, click here.