OLYMPIA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has created a new on-line form that the public can use to report lost or derelict fishing gear.
The web address is http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/derelict/derelict_gear.htm on the Internet.
Derelict fishing gear includes nets and shellfish pots that have been lost or abandoned in saltwater areas. This gear can continue to catch and kill a variety of marine life, including crab, salmon, bottomfish, birds and marine mammals.
No estimate is available of the total amount of gear lost in Puget Sound. Mary Lou Mills, WDFW Fish Program Resource Manager, said recording locations and other information on derelict gear will allow the department to establish a database and facilitate removal, which will benefit a variety of marine resources.
WDFW has partnered with the Northwest Straits Marine Commission and the Washington Department of Natural Resources on establishing derelict gear-removal guidelines, while several organizations have been involved in derelict gear cleanups.
"Lost or derelict fishing nets, as well as lost crabbing and shrimping gear, can continue to catch and kill marine life for years, if not decades, if not removed," she said. "This gear also threatens swimmers and divers, as well as anchors, propellers and gear that is currently being fished."
Reports of derelict gear should include the observed location, type and size of gear, the likelihood that people or wildlife could become entangled and other information.
Mills strongly cautioned fishers, divers, boaters and others to not attempt to retrieve any derelict gear.
"The potential for entanglement is too great a risk, especially in dive situations," Mills said. "It's important to leave gear removal operations to the professional crews, which are contracted to remove the gear. They possess the right equipment and the experience to handle tricky removal operations."
Mills said derelict gear locations can still be called in to the WDFW Enforcement Program's toll-free incident hotline, (800) 477-6224, but it can be entered into the derelict gear database only if sufficient information is provided.