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News notes Mid Atlantic Novembre 2006

Chesapeake group to eliminate ‘ghost’ pots

Members of the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and state and local governments are working toward eradicating derelict crab pots and other abandoned fishing gear from the Chesapeake Bay.

During an early September event at the Freight Shed at Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown, Va., agency representatives highlighted an ongoing project to identify, map and assess crab pots and the stress they impose on the health and economy of the Bay.

The project focuses on investigating the impact of derelict crab pots, also known as “ghost” crab pots, which are lost during storms or have been accidentally cut loose from their buoys by boat motors. They have a detrimental effect on the Chesapeake Bay as they continue to catch blue crabs and other important living bay resources without ever being retrieved. In addition to the loss of crabs, ghost pots create a hazard for boaters by adding to the debris in the bay.

Preliminary estimates of derelict trap densities for the surveyed portions of the Virginia and Maryland waterways are as high as 30 pots per half-mile for the York River in Virginia and 120 pots per kilometer for the South River in Maryland. Data gathered by VIMS and the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office researchers since last November suggest that ghost pots identified in the surveyed area of the York River trap 100,000 crabs per year. If this pattern exists in other parts of the Bay, the loss of crabs to ghost pots could be equal to nearly 15 percent of the annual harvest. However, more data and survey areas are needed to quantify this impact.

PFD requirement could come to Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission are considering the expansion of mandatory life jacket regulations for boaters.

The changes would apply to boaters aboard watercraft 16 feet or less and all canoes and kayaks.

Possible changes include requiring PFDs be worn at all times throughout the year, or requiring they be worn from Oct. 1 through May 31.

The commission noted 114 people died in recreational boating accidents in Pennsylvania from 1996 through 2005; 42 percent of those accidents occurring during cold water months.

Currently, all children 12 and younger must wear a life jacket while under way on any boat 20 feet in length or less, and when they’re in canoes and kayaks.

Also, anyone towed behind a boat; all personal watercraft operators and passengers; all sailboarders and anyone boating on U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Pittsburgh District lakes, in boats less than 16 feet in length and in all canoes and kayaks, must wear life jackets.

Safety classes save lives, state says

South Carolina officials say boating and safety classes have helped to reduce the number of people killed on the state’s waterways in the last 10 years, The State newspaper of South Carolina, reports.

Through August, nine people died in boating accidents in South Carolina, compared to a total of 13 boating fatalities in 2005 and 2004, according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

In 1997 there were 34 boating fatalities. Deaths began to decline after that when the state passed tougher penalties for improper boat operations.

The decline in deaths comes as the state has experienced a 21-percent increase in the number of boats.

South Carolina requires boating safety training for anyone younger than 16 who wants to operate a boat or personal watercraft with an engine 15-hp or greater without being accompanied by an adult.

Annapolis-built Talbot debuts at boat show

Annapolis Classic Watercraft’s new modern runabout, the Talbot 20, debuted Aug. 26 at the WoodenBoat Show in Newport, R.I. — one of only two runabout-styled vessels present.

ACW plans to begin production of the semi-custom runabouts in the coming months.