OLYMPIA – Boaters, divers and others who encounter derelict fishing gear in Washington’s marine waters can report their findings using a new toll-free phone number: (855) 542-3935.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recently added the dedicated phone line to expedite handling reports of ghost nets, abandoned crab pots and other derelict fishing gear.
“We want to make reporting derelict fishing gear easy,” said Brad Sele, operations manager for the WDFW Fish Management Division. “The sooner we can get that information into our database, the sooner we can get the gear out of the water.”
A major partner in that effort is the Northwest Straits Conservation Initiative, a non-profit organization that shares WDFW’s database of derelict gear and coordinates many of the gear-removal projects in northern Puget Sound.
Working in partnership with WDFW and others, Northwest Straits has removed more than 3,800 derelict fishing nets and 2,000 abandoned crab pots from Puget Sound since 2002. More than 211,000 fish, birds and marine mammals were found entangled in that gear.
“That reflects only a fraction of the fish and wildlife actually affected by derelict gear,” Sele said. “But we’ve made real progress in addressing this hazard in recent years, and we appreciate people’s help in locating derelict gear we may not know about.”
Those calling to file a report are asked the date of the sighting, type of gear lost or found, approximate water depth, general location and – if known – the longitude and latitude of the gear.
Reports can also be filed on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/derelict/ or at the Northwest Straits Conservation Initiative’s website http://www.derelictgear.org and phone number (360) 428-1084. More information about the gear-removal program is available on page 23 of the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet for the 2011-12 season.
“This is a no-fault program,” Sele said. “Our focus is on removing lost and abandoned gear, not to assign blame or assess penalties for leaving it behind.”
Regardless of the circumstances, Sele warns people against attempting to remove derelict fishing gear by themselves.
“This gear can potentially be as dangerous to humans as it is to fish and wildlife,” he said. “If you see this stuff in the water, give us a call or file a report online.”