Baltimore County Works To Remove "Ghost Pots" From The Chesapeake Bay


Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski speaks to a crowd in Essex. (Credit: Baltimore County/ Youtube)

BALTIMORE COUNTY - Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski visited the Essex Waterfront on Tuesday to highlight the progress made towards removing derelict crab pots and fishing gear from the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay.

Unused crab traps, or "ghost pots," have become a significant threat to the delicate ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay. According to a 2016 study by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, they trap an estimated 3.3 million crabs a year. "Ghost pots" are typically lost during storms or accidentally cut loose by boat propellers. They remain on the bay bottom, continuing to trap crabs, finfish, turtles, and other aquatic species.

These unused traps not only harm the environment but have a negative impact on Maryland's valuable commercial blue crabbing industry. The debris competes with active commercial and recreational crabbing and fishing for these seafood resources.

In conjunction with the Maryland non-profit Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP), the County program has mapped thousands of submerged crab pots and fishing debris for targeted removal. ORP hired 15 crews of local watermen during this winter off-season for retrieval operations during the last week of February and the first week of March.

The goal is to remove about 50 to 70 percent of the more than 2,100 accumulated derelict traps that were identified using side-scan sonar technology in the first weeks of this year.

"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 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 Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (DEPS) funded the project through a $150,000 grant to the ORP.

"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," ORP Executive Director Ward Slacum said. "We applaud the county's support for this unique restoration strategy."

In partnership with ORP, the county has also established an oyster shell collection area at the Eastern Sanitary Landfill at 6259 Days Cove Road in White Marsh. Shell recyclers should look for the white Shell Recycling Alliance (TM) sign and deposit only shells into the collection cans. No plastic or mesh bags should be placed in the containers.

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