Annual project cleans up waterways and employs watermen and women during a slower time of the year

Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project

The North Carolina Coastal Federation is set to begin its seventh year of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project this week. Thirty-one commercial watermen along the northern and central coast will set out into the sounds to collect lost crab pots.

Every year, crab pots and other fishing gear are lost in our sounds in a variety of ways. Lost gear can get hung up or drift into channels, creating hazards to boaters and wildlife. Since 2014, the federation has led the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project in an effort to remove lost crab pots from North Carolina sounds.

With the help of various partners, commercial fishermen and women are hired to collect the pots during the no-potting period. The no-potting period is the annual closure of internal coastal waters to all crab, eel, fish and shrimp pots.

In January 2019, 3,112 pots were removed from select areas within all three Marine Patrol Districts. The 2021 project will take place in select areas within Marine Patrol District 1, which covers the northeast region of the coast, and District 2, which covers the central region of the coast.

Once the pots are collected, they are recycled to the best extent possible. Crab pots that are recovered from the Albemarle and Pamlico Sound region during the project will be available for the rightful property owners to reclaim after the cleanup is complete.

This project is funded by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Commercial Resource Fund Committee and the Funding Committee for the N.C. Commercial Resource Fund under the Commercial Fishing Resource Fund Grant Program. It is intended to improve habitat, water quality and support coastal economies.

“We’ve all been hit pretty hard this year. After a tough year of crabbing I am looking forward to this opportunity. With this project not getting funded in 2020, I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of cleaning up to do,” JT Outland, project participant from Manns Harbor shared. “Being on the water nearly every day as a full-time commercial fisherman, it’s important to remove the lost pots and keep our waters clean and safe.”

Sara Hallas, coastal education coordinator for the federation and project leader, said she’s excited to clean up the waterways and create opportunities for work during this time of the year.

“This project wouldn’t be possible without the support of community organizations and our commercial watermen and women, who have consistently expressed that helping with this project and protecting waterways is important to them.”

The boat crews will conduct crab pot removal from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. each day starting around Jan. 8. Removal will take approximately one week.

This project is part of the federation’s overall effort to ensure an N.C. coast that is free of marine debris. Establishing an annual paid program for marine debris removal—including crab pots—is a key objective of the N.C. Marine Debris Strategic Plan. For more information on the progress of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project over past years, visit

About the North Carolina Coastal Federation

The North Carolina Coastal Federation is a nonprofit membership organization that works to keep the coast of North Carolina a great place to live, work and play. Through a variety of programs and partnerships, the federation provides for clean coastal waters and habitats, advocates to protect the coast and teaches and informs people about the coast and what they can do to protect it.
The federation has offices in Ocean, Wanchese and Wrightsville Beach, N.C. To learn more, please visit or call 252-393-8185.

By Sara J. Hallas