EDITORIAL

Lobster Traps Adrift

Posted May 27, 2011, at 11:10 p.m.

At the bottom of the ocean, as well as on land, hundreds of lobster traps are lost or abandoned each year. The Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation is on the case, and a remedy is in sight.

Traps get lost when the buoys are buffeted by storms or cut loose by the propellers of passing boats. Many go missing when the newly required sinking rope connecting them are abraded by the rocky ocean bottom. Floating rope was outlawed as a hazard to right whales.

From coastal waters, searches organized by the foundation have reclaimed 3,247 of the “ghost traps” in the past two years, with financing by federal grants and donations by various yacht clubs. Of that total, 1,690 usable traps were saved and identified, and 1,030 have been claimed by their owners. The program is scheduled to continue next year.

Recovered traps that were in bad shape went to various scrap recycling shops. The steel has value, and cash returns from the recycling help pay for future searches. The scrap produced 20 tons of steel in the first year and even more last year. More than six tons of scrap rope, junk buoys and other non-metal scrap went to Portland for incineration.

The searches in 2010 were conducted in Jonesport-Beals, Bar Harbor-Manset and Stonington-Deer Isle. This year’s searches were in Southwest Harbor, Tenants Harbor, Boothbay Harbor and Casco Bay.

Lobstermen were recruited for the searches, and they could make $500 a day — a practical alternative to fishing when the catch was skimpy.

Still another trap problem is the many abandoned traps on beaches or islands. Lobstermen and their families have already organized cleanups in York Harbor and Cape Porpoise. The foundation’s project manager, Laura Ludwig, is planning a statewide cleanup of abandoned traps financed by expected federal grants.

Lobster harvesting is hard and demanding work. Our lobstermen need this help in managing the huge amounts of gear that they need.

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