A crab sits captured in a crab pot. Photo by A.Davey/Flickr Creative Commons.

Lost or abandoned crab pots, or “ghost pots,” litter the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay, trapping and killing millions of crabs, fish, turtles, and other aquatic life each year.

For the second year in a row, Baltimore County officials are working with the Maryland nonprofit Oyster Recovery Partnership to locate and remove the crab pots and other fishing debris.

“Removing and recycling this debris is a vital project for the health of our waterways, and we’re proud to again bring together the environmental science community and local watermen for this win-win project,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said in a statement. “In removing thousands of derelict crab pots, we not only protect and improve the environment, but we do so in a way that also supports those who depend on the Bay for their livelihood.”

The Oyster Recovery Partnership received a $150,000 grant from the county’s environmental department to manage the removal project.

Using side-scan sonar technology, they identified more than 2,100 crab pots as well as other fishing debris in a 3,000-acre area of the bay, northeast of Hart Miller Island.

They hired 15 crews of local watermen to remove and document the debris during the last week of February and first week of March. The goal was to remove about 50-70% of the identified traps.

“For the second year in a row, ORP is happy to be able to support our commercial watermen partners by working with them to retrieve and recycle lost gear in Baltimore County waterways, improving the blue crab fishery and Chesapeake Bay health,” said Ward Slacum, executive director of the Oyster Recovery Partnership, in a statement. “We applaud the county’s support for this unique restoration strategy.”

Crews manually removed the debris, which the county’s department of public works and transportation will recycle or dispose of, depending on their condition.

The Oyster Recovery Partnership documents the condition of each recovered trap and gear and reports whether it contained crabs, finfish, or other contents. The partnership will submit a report to the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability this summer.

Last year’s removal efforts targeted the mouth of the Patapsco River off the North Point Peninsula.

Also in collaboration with the Oyster Recovery Partnership, Baltimore County has set up an oyster shell collection site at the Easter Sanitary Landfill, located at 6259 Days Cove Road in White Marsh.

After eating oysters, residents can take their empty shells to the landfill, where they will find a white Shell Recycling Alliance sign.

The shells will be used to help restore the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster habitats.

“The addition of this site is a reflection of the strong partnership between ORP and Baltimore County, and of the County’s commitment to Chesapeake Bay restoration,” Slacum said.

The Oyster Recovery Partnership has more than 70 public shell collection locations throughout Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. The nonprofit also gathers oyster shells from restaurants and commercial seafood operators.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...

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