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August 12, 2009

Latest recession victim: Puget sound ghost nets

$4.6 million in economic stimulus funding from NOAA goes to work to remove lethal nets...

Photo by Northwest Straits Commission

Mount Vernon, WA - The deadly reign of more than 3,000 derelict nets is coming to an end in Puget Sound, as $4.6 million in economic stimulus funding from NOAA goes to work to remove the lethal nets from those waters.

The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative has been awarded the funds that, directed through the non?profit Foundation arm of the Northwest Straits Initiative, will deployed a crew of 40 to remove nets from the seafloor. The project will restore 645 acres of marine habitat, and is expected to take 18 months.

Derelict nets, also known as ghost nets, are abandoned or lost commercial gill nets that have snagged, torn loose in storms or otherwise been lost or abandoned to remain in the water and continue to entrap and kill birds and sealift as long as their monofilament meshes remain intact.

"Derelict fishing nets are actively killing enormous numbers of fish, seabirds and other marine animals," said Ginny Broadhurst, Secretary of the Northwest Straits Foundation.

 "We now have the funding needed to get 90 percent of the derelict nets out of Puget Sound forever. These waters will be safer for boaters, divers, and marine life." The foundation has identified 112 distinct species that have been trapped and killed by the ghost nets.
 
The project stimulates the marine economy in Puget Sound by creating 40 living wage jobs, at a time when this economic sector is severely impacted by the national economic downturn. "We're going to employ people who wouldn't be working without this project, and the work is incredibly valuable to Puget Sound," said Broadhurst.

In addition to creating jobs and restoring marine habitat, the project will protect crabs and fish valued commercially in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Since 2002, the Northwest Straits Initiative has removed over 1,200 derelict fishing nets, from more than 240 acres of marine habitat, and saved millions of animals from incidental death each year.

For additional information on the derelict fishing gear removal project, go to www.derelictgear.org. More information about the Northwest Straits Initiative can be found at www.nwstraits.org.