WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — A state-wide effort to help clean up North Carolina waters is about to kick off and nearly 80 commercial watermen will partake in the sixth year of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project.
The program aims to recover lost crab pots in North Carolina sounds. Initially, the program was limited to the northeastern part of the state but has since been expanded, according to the North Carolina Coastal Federation.
Funding for the project comes from both state and federal sources.
“During the 2018 project, over 2 million acres of waterways were canvassed to recover a total of 3,496 crab pots by 76 watermen along the coast,” according to a press release.
The project will kick off on Jan. 15 and is planned to coincide with the off-season for crabbing.
“These cleanup efforts are timed with the annual closure, spanning Jan. 15 to Feb. 7, of internal coastal waters to all crab, eel, fish and shrimp pots, commonly called the ‘no-potting’ period. Pots can become lost in many ways and get hung up or drift into channels creating hazards to boaters and wildlife,” the release states.
It’s not just good for the environment though, winter is generally a slow season financially for people who make their living on the water.
This year, 39 different rews have been selected to assist with the cleanup efforts.
“The watermen and women really look forward to this opportunity, not only for the additional income during a slow period, but also for the chance to demonstrate their stewardship of our coastal waters,” Ted Wilgis, coastal education coordinator at the federation’s Wrightsville Beach office said.
“This year the program is especially important due to the losses suffered by fishers and their communities due to the hurricanes as well as the number of crab pots lost. We greatly appreciate the support of the General Assembly for this vital and effective program,” Wilgis concluded.