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Author Topic: His catch: 3,100 crab pots so far, and one baby stroller  (Read 21336 times)
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Tom Powers
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« on: February 14, 2009, 09:04:18 AM »

His catch: 3,100 crab pots so far, and one baby stroller


Looking for abandoned crab pots, marine trash. (Steve Earley | The Virginian-Pilot)

By Scott Harper
The Virginian-Pilot
February 14, 2009

NEWPORT NEWS

Pete Freeman turned 80 Friday. As usual, he was on the water, working. But not harvesting crabs, as he has done each winter since he was 14.

Instead, Freeman was working for the government, making $300 per day, plus expenses, scouring the bottom of the lower Chesapeake Bay for abandoned crab pots, junk tires, scrap metal and rope, and other marine trash.

"You got to do something," Freeman said with a shrug Wednesday morning as he steered his weathered old boat, the Hot Goose, toward the open waters of the James River for another day of "catching pots."

Freeman, of Hampton, is one of 58 Virginia watermen participating in a work program this winter stemming from a federal declaration that the Bay's once-mighty crab fishery is a national disaster.

In the wake of that historic declaration, Congress approved $10 million to aid struggling watermen, such as Freeman, who found themselves without a job after state regulators shut down the winter crabbing season for the first time in 105 years, in the name of conservation.

For the record, Freeman said he thinks there is no shortage of crabs in the Bay, and that state and federal officials overreacted to scientific estimates about fragile crab stocks. But he is not complaining.

He supports the debris-cleanup program, costing $1.5 million this year and slated to continue in 2010 and 2011 at more than $1 million a year. Freeman said he is not sure what he would have done without it.

"I hadn't had a paycheck since October," he said. "We had heard the state was considering something like this, but we weren't sure. I just wanted to work. I couldn't afford to stay at home and twiddle my thumbs."

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission launched the cleanup program just before Christmas, utilizing state funds in anticipation of federal disaster aid.

Watermen received two days of training through the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, mostly in how to use side-imaging sonars that the state purchased and then installed on their boats. The high-tech cameras allow the crabbers to locate abandoned crab traps, or pots, that have sunk to the bottom.

"OK, see? There's a pot," said Freeman, pointing to a white square that appears on a fuzzy screen aboard his boat.

He pushed a button on a screen that marks the spot, storing the information inside a tiny computer. That way, he could come back and retrieve the pot later. Or he could go grab it right then.

So far, participants have removed more than 3,100 pots from the Bay, as well as 290 derelict peeler pots, 34 eel pots, 16 fishing nets, a baby stroller, an air conditioning unit, chunks of scrap metal and several shopping carts, according to Kirk Havens, an ecologist and project leader at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Previous studies have shown that each "ghost pot" can trap up to 50 crabs, Havens said, posing serious risks to the overall crab population.

Other marine life also gets stuck and often dies in the traps. Victims include black sea bass, catfish, yellow perch, muskrats and turtles, Havens said.

"We're cleaning up the Bay, one piece at a time," Freeman said. "God knows, someone has to do it."

On Wednesday, Freeman was heading to the confluence of the James and Elizabeth rivers, just off Craney Island in Portsmouth, where he had marked a cluster of ghost pots a few days earlier.

Once there, he deployed a self-made "dead-man's drag," a 150-foot-long rope and chain, interspersed with hooks. After sinking the device to the bottom, he maneuvered his boat in a wide circle until he snagged his target.

When he hit the pot, the impact nearly knocked him over. But he held fast and started reeling in the rope, one hand at a time.

Soon, a slime-covered chicken-wire box surfaced, loaded with fish, baby crabs, mud, plants, shell fragments and other earthy life.

There was good news too: This abandoned pot held a veined Rapa whelk, a rare and invasive sea snail that the state is collecting and trying to get rid of.

Freeman flipped the whelk into a bucket of river water and said he can get $5 by turning in the species to state scientists who offer bounties to water men.

Freeman said he has hauled up more than 100 pots from the lower Bay this winter. He throws away the rusted remains once back on land and must record the numbers.

On this day, he snared two pots, though he spotted a dozen others and pledged to come back for them. Since the program allows watermen to work just 48 days through mid-March, he must ration his schedule.

As Freeman puttered back to his Newport News dock, two other participants, who were working up the James River, crackled over his radio. They commented on the nice weather, complained about state regulations and then talked wistfully about the promise of the upcoming crabbing season, which opens March 17.

"Never wanted to do anything else," Freeman said of his 60-year career as a waterman. "You work your own hours, go where you want, when you want, and then go home."

He then smiled, looked ahead into a bright sun, and steered for shore.

Scott Harper, (757) 446-2340, [email protected]
« Last Edit: February 14, 2009, 09:06:54 AM by Tom Powers » Logged
genecrabman
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2009, 09:34:59 AM »

I HOPE THE BABY IS SAFE..................
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2009, 10:50:33 AM »

good read . thanks.  Wink
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burley
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« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2009, 11:06:35 AM »

I don't know what the crabs up there like, but if I could get a pot that looked like that to come up LOADED WITH CRABS I would never wash my gear. Roll Eyes
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mr waterman
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dad thinks he caught the big one..




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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2009, 11:38:23 AM »

nice i think that is what people should do to help save the bay they say that the bluecrab population was going down and now there is someone that is trying to help save them. Wink Wink
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Born and raised eastern shore country boy; yes that means i work on a commercial crab boat..

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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2009, 12:02:08 PM »

I my Opinion they are removing "HABITAT" for baby crabs and fish and Oysters.......these pots are a Playground  (jungle Gym) for Juvenile crabs.......But I'd rather see Waterman get the States money then have them Pizz it away to other projects...




« Last Edit: February 14, 2009, 09:25:02 PM by genecrabman » Logged
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dad thinks he caught the big one..




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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2009, 12:29:06 PM »

true.
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Born and raised eastern shore country boy; yes that means i work on a commercial crab boat..
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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2009, 01:27:15 PM »

 Those derelict pots Are killing crab and flounder for sure. I have seen old pots with catch in them and it is wasted portion of resource that will never reproduce. The cleanup is a positive step to increase numbers but I wonder if they have considered restoring eel grass. I have read that when the grass was abundant, the crabs were plentiful. There must be better habitat for juveniles than old traps and junk. Mo Crab is Mo Better Grin
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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2009, 01:40:58 PM »

3100 pots and still counting makes me wonder how many ghost pots are in md.
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burley
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2009, 02:17:13 PM »

I my Opinion they are removing "HABITAT" for baby crabs and fish and Oysters.......these pots are a Playground  (jungle Gym) for Juvenile crabs.......But I'd rather see Waterman get the States money then have them Pizz it away to other projects...

could not agree more
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mdjohn
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« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2009, 02:32:35 PM »



Instead, Freeman was working for the government, making $300 per day, plus expenses, scouring the bottom of the lower Chesapeake Bay for abandoned crab pots, junk tires, scrap metal and rope, and other marine trash.



$300 per day = $ 1500 per week = $ 78,000 per year plus expenses, which I take to be boat expenses ------ are there any openings  Wink Grin Grin

$10 million dollars spent divided by 3,100 pots pulled out equals a cost of $3,225 per pot ------ shoot, they just gotta pay a bounty of $100 per pot and I bet they would get a million pots turned in. I know when we troll for rock and snag an old pot, we normally throw the pot back in, but if it was worth $100, [Sam Hill] we'll be old pot fishing  laugh laugh laugh
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« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2009, 02:58:04 PM »

Those derelict pots Are killing crab and flounder for sure. I have seen old pots with catch in them and it is wasted portion of resource that will never reproduce. The cleanup is a positive step to increase numbers but I wonder if they have considered restoring eel grass. I have read that when the grass was abundant, the crabs were plentiful. There must be better habitat for juveniles than old traps and junk. Mo Crab is Mo Better Grin




More Small Crabs, and Fish  are saved because of Ghost Pots,because Predators can't get too em.. I'm talking about small sea life, even shrimp. The next time you find a Ghost pot, set it down on your deck,in a few seconds,you'll see what I mean.. More Sea Life will fall out of that thing then you can image..
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Tom Powers
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« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2009, 03:46:41 PM »

MDJohn,

They don't have it quite that good.  They are only allotted like 30 to 45 days during the three month "ghost pot" season.

I agree about the grass beds.  Hopefully we can get more moving in that direction.

And it is not $10M for this project alone.  That is the entire disaster fund.  It is more like $1.5M this year.  Maybe a bounty would be better.  But then you have the potential problem of folks setting out their "own" pots to collect up later.  Throw them over in Nov. at the end of the season retreive them in Dec./Jan./Feb. and collect the bounty. 

A big part of this is to compensate the folks that got shut out of the dredge fishery, while at the same time helping the resource.

« Last Edit: February 14, 2009, 03:50:40 PM by Tom Powers » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2009, 04:28:18 PM »

$300 per day = $ 1500 per week = $ 78,000 per year plus expenses, which I take to be boat expenses ------ are there any openings  Wink Grin Grin

$10 million dollars spent divided by 3,100 pots pulled out equals a cost of $3,225 per pot ------ shoot, they just gotta pay a bounty of $100 per pot and I bet they would get a million pots turned in. I know when we troll for rock and snag an old pot, we normally throw the pot back in, but if it was worth $100, [Sam Hill] we'll be old pot fishing  laugh laugh laugh

They are only allowed to work 48 days by the states regulation.
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The crab was so big his claw cut my gas line in half and I had to swim back to the dock!
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« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2009, 07:41:45 PM »

Sounds like they are doing good hope they keep working there way north
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« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2009, 08:38:28 PM »



    This is the first real effect to start to clean up the Cheapeake Bay,side-imaging sonar that the state installs on thier boats,couldn't a small electro magnet crane be installed to retrieve the ghost crab pot,shopping carts and other types of metallic junk,this seems like it would be faster than pulling by hand and possible, easier on the crab and fish habitat,and i know it would cost more,just an opinion.

It looks good and this is a start let all hope this will work.
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« Reply #16 on: February 15, 2009, 10:19:11 AM »

I hope if they get a brand new pot that has been cut, they don't keep it for themselves...
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« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2009, 10:42:19 AM »

I hope if they get a brand new pot that has been cut, they don't keep it for themselves...

Why Huh Huh
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« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2009, 12:08:52 PM »

Cause thats stealing.
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« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2009, 01:20:35 PM »

Cause thats stealing.
How would that be considered stealing?
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