Crab found in 2019 derelict pot removal in Port Townsend Bay. Photo by Cheryl Lowe
Crabber Outreach & Derelict Gear Removal

Crabber Outreach & Derelict Gear Removal

More than 12,000 crab pots are lost and become derelict every year in Washington’s Salish Sea, killing over 180,000 harvestable crab each year.  Jefferson MRC has teamed up with the Northwest Straits Foundation to educate local recreational crabbers about best practices to “Catch More Crab” and avoid losing crab pots.  Jefferson MRC and other MRCs promote best harvesting practices in annual Catch More Crab campaigns.


  • CHECK TIDES AND CURRENTS. Avoid crabbing during strong tidal changes and currents.
  • USE HIGH VISIBILITY BUOYS to clearly mark your gear.
  • USE A WEIGHTED LINE to sink below the surface and avoid being cut by passing boats.
  • WEIGHT YOUR POT so they do not move in high currents or tidal changes
  • USE LONGER LINE. Use 1/3 more line than water depth to allow for changes in tides and currents
  • SECURE LID AND ESCAPE PANELS WITH BIODEGRADABLE COTTON ESCAPE CORD. This allows crabs to escape from lost pots after the cord degrades. 


In 2019, the Northwest Straits Foundation and a marine services consultant surveyed and collected derelict pots in Port Townsend and Dungeness Bays. They found over 254 pots in Port Townsend Bay alone. The Port Townsend Leader covered the story, informing a much wider audience about the problem of lost pots and what is being done about it. Read more about the project on the Foundation's website.  A similar derelict pot recovery effort was done in 2014, when over 300 derelict pots were collected. 254 pots in one small bay over 5 years is a lot of lost pots! We hope this educational effort will reduce that number.


The Jefferson County MRC and the Sea Dragons are working collaboratively to develop a new method for recovering lost crab pots in the Salish Sea. The Sea Dragons is a student-run underwater robotics team focused on designing and operating submersible remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). The goal of this partnership is to remove lost crab pots from our local waters, as well as to demonstrate how ROVs can serve as a lower cost and community-driven crab pot recovery method. In 2022, the MRC and Sea Dragons piloted the use of an ROV for removing derelict crab pots.  Pots were first located using side scan sonar surveys in Discovery Bay, near Adelma Beach and between the Cape George Marina and Beckett Point, where over one hundred crab pots were detected.  With a short on-the-water work schedule, the team successfully relocated six lost crab pots and recovered three. In 2023, the team focused its efforts on Port Townsend Bay, recovering 17 pots while providing learning opportunities for new robotics students and building partnerships across the Salish Sea.

-- See the project StoryMap here
-- See the 2022 project summary report here
-- Read local coverage of the project here

Additional Resources

Crabber Outreach & Derelict Gear Removal