New use found for old crab pots in Barnegat Bay

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It's a hazard to both humans and wildlife in New Jersey: abandoned crab pots. (WPVI)

It's a hazard to both humans and wildlife in New Jersey: abandoned crab pots.

Now, a huge effort is underway to fish them out, and they're actually finding a use for them on dry land.

It starts with a concerted effort to pull rusty old crab pots from the bottom of the Barnegat Bay.

"For wildlife it can be a huge hazard. Many animals can be caught and die in these abandoned crab pots," said David Wheeler of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

And so with a grant from NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation is using local fishermen to retrieve 26,000 pounds of crab pots and abandoned marine debris from Brick down to Stafford.

It's believed there's more than a thousand pots out there.

"Oh there's lots of traps out there, they found a lot. They scanned a lot," said fisherman R.J. Cericola. "Most of its recreational traps that we find. Some of them do have commercial tags on them."

Retrieval boats move from dot to dot on the sidescan sonar screen. The mapping was done by Stockton University.

"We're going to look for images that have shadows that are boxlike and that would be a probable crab pot," said John Wnek of the M.A.T.E.S Program.

The old pots will be collected in a bin at Spencer's Marina in Waretown. Then, as part of a program called Fishing for Energy, the Covanta Company of central Jersey will burn the traps and gear to produce electricity.

Since the Fishing for Energy program started in 2008 it's hauled in more than 3 million pounds of old fishing gear that would otherwise be left in the water or piled on a dock somewhere.

"It provides the commercial fishermen with a place to dispose of the derelict gear at no cost to them," said Meg Morris of Covanta.

There are also bins in Manahawkin, Barnegat Light and Mantoloking. The hope is within two years when you drop your line in the bay you'll come up with crabs or fish, and not some rusty old crab pot.
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