Crew members of the F/V Bet-Sea recover a gill net snagged on a reef 27 feet below the water, Sept. 25. This one net has been killing marine life for nearly 40 years. It will kill no more. Russell Sadler

By RUSSELL SADLER
Journal of the San Juans Correspondent

NORTHWEST OF YELLOW ISLAND, SAN JUAN CHANNEL — "Lost" gill nets are never really lost.

Fishing boat operators cut loose snagged nets and get their boats free and head for port. The derelict nets remain where they were snagged — often for decades — catching and killing marine life.

The Northwest Straits Foundation estimates derelict gill nets capture and kill an estimated 30,000 marine birds, 110,000 fish and 2 million invertebrates, like crabs, annually over an area of 645 acres of Puget Sound marine habitat. Since 2001, the foundation's Derelict Net Survey and Removal Project has removed 1,300 gill nets covering 280 acres through June of this year. The effort was stalling for lack of money.

The foundation was recently awarded a $4.6 million economic stimulus grant through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to find and recover the approximately 3,000 remaining gill nets in Puget Sound, according to foundation official Ginny Broadhurst.

Cleaning up the past is neither easy nor cheap. A group of foundation officials, financial donors and a reporter were bundled aboard the whale-watch boat Orca Express on Sept. 25 for a trip out to watch the F/V Bet-Sea recover a gill net snagged on a reef 27 feet below the water. The surrounding water is more than 60 feet deep. …

Derelict fishing nets' toll: 30,000 marine birds, 110,000 fish and 2 million invertebrates a year

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