The Swinomish Tribe plans to resume work this year to remove marine debris from Similk Bay and the Swinomish Channel after the coronavirus pandemic put the project on hold last year.

Tribal scuba divers intend to remove an estimated 12 abandoned nets and more than 200 crab pots that have been left behind. The debris will be located by Natural Resource Consultants using side-scan sonar to map the sea floor.

When marine debris is abandoned, old nets and pots can “ghost fish” by continuing to kill crabs, marine mammals and other species. Derelict crab and shrimp pots can damage underwater habitat, and lost nets pose a safety risk to boaters.

The marine debris removal work is a partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and follows a similar Swinomish pilot project that started in March 2016.

The recovered gear will be redistributed, reused and recycled as best possible. The project aims to promote marine debris awareness and reduce the impacts of derelict fishing gear in Similk Bay and Swinomish Channel.

The work also will include a prevention plan to keep the tribe’s fishing docks free of debris, and provide monitoring and enforcement.

The Swinomish departments of Land Management, Environmental Protection, Fisheries Enforcement, Fisheries, and the Fish and Game Commission will partner with fishermen to evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of marine debris removal, along with prevention and education efforts.

Elsewhere, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has a number of monofilament recycling spots across the state. Find one near you.

From left, Swinomish tribal divers Matt Johnston, JJ Wilbur and Cody Cayou assess the marine debris they removed from the Swinomish Channel during a pilot project. The divers identified and hauled more than seven totes full of old crab pots, nets and other fishing gear from the water, in coordination with Kyle Antonelis of Natural Resource Consultants, who also provided the training. Photo: Kyle Antonelis