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More Nets Removed From Puget Sound

Liz Jones

Fishing nets left in Puget Sound can be deadly traps for fish, seabirds and other marine life. But now the water's a little safer. A local group has completed a major effort to clear out the underwater hazards. KUOW's Liz Jones reports.


For the past year and a half the Northwest Straights Initiative has found and removed nearly 2,500 nets from Puget Sound. Unfortunately they say at least 1,200 nets are still out there — more than they previously thought. They know that now because of a recent discovery.

Broadhurst: "We developed a new technology for looking and finding the nets underwater. That's the use of a side–scan sonar — very, very high resolution side–scan sonar."

That's Ginny Broadhurst, Director of Northwest Straights. She says the new technique allowed them to find smaller pieces of nets that previously went undetected. That's the good news.

Broadhurst: "But the bad news was that it's such a good technique that we found about 25 percent more nets than we expected to find."

Most of the nylon nets were left in the water years ago, when fishing was more widespread. Typically, the nets would be hopelessly snagged on the sea floor, forcing fisherman to cut them loose.

The project was funded with $4.6 million of federal stimulus money. It put 30 people to work for 18 months.

Jennifer Steger is the NW Regional Supervisor for the NOAA Restoration Center. She says this project was a good fit for stimulus funds because the payoff is clear.

Steger: "The jobs creation, the improvement to the habitat, the overall ecological benefit — all of those things."

Jones: "Why does government pay for removing these nets rather than the fishing industry?"

Steger: "A lot of these are ghost nets. You can't identify a particular individual that would be responsible. And going after the entire industry, I'm not quite sure how we would do that."

In the meantime, Northwest Straits is looking for more funding to clear out the remaining nets from Puget Sound.

I'm Liz Jones, KUOW News.

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