SOURCE: Stellwagen Alive

December 16, 2008 12:44 ET

Media Alert: Stellwagen Sweep Collects Tons of Sea Debris

GLOUCESTER, MA--(Marketwire - December 16, 2008) - Stellwagen Alive's Stellwagen Sweep program will display up to 5 tons of sea debris on the Jodrey State Pier on the historic Gloucester waterfront on Thursday, December 18, at 1:00 PM. The debris consists primarily of old and unusable fishing gear that is being properly recycled instead of littering the ocean floor. Derelict gear poses a threat to marine mammals, seabirds, shellfish and fish through "ghost fishing," where the gear can attract, trap and kill a wide variety of animals. Derelict fishing gear can degrade marine ecosystems and sensitive habitats, and pose a threat to human safety and restrict other legitimate sanctuary uses, such as regulated fishing, anchoring and operation of vessels.

Through expanded cooperation of the coastal commercial fishing community, the Gloucester Harbormaster, the Gloucester Department of Public Works, and the Department of Marine Fisheries of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, this two-year effort known as Stellwagen Sweep will have a significant impact on the cleanliness of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Tons of gear, some from the sea and some from the shed will be piled up in the pier in the kickoff event of a two-year effort that will collect over 100 tons of sea debris. "It is time that we work together to improve the quality of the marine life in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The commercial fishing industry working together with the Stellwagen Alive is the only way to achieve the best protection for this precious fishing ground," said Angela Sanfillipo, President of the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association and Executive Director of the Massachusetts Fishermen's Partnership.

Dr. Jennifer Ferre, Executive Director of Stellwagen Alive, said, "The removal of sea debris that Stellwagen Sweep will accomplish is critical to the preservation of the delicate marine environment of the Sanctuary. We are looking at a robust schedule of sweeps through 2010."

Commercial fishermen in New England, specifically within the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary, routinely haul up derelict fishing gear in their day-to-day operations. Usually this derelict gear is entangled in their working gear so they must devote valuable labor and time to disentangling the debris. New England near shore commercial fishermen are currently allocated 24 days-at-sea per year to fish, so wasting time disentangling gear is extremely costly. They are then faced with the decision of whether to bring the gear back to shore and dispose of it or dump it back overboard knowing that they will probably encounter the derelict gear again. Derelict fishing gear, such as net, lines and other recreational or commercial fishing equipment that has been lost, abandoned or discarded, can persist in the environment for decades.

About Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Congress designated the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in 1992 as "an area of special national significance." Virtually the size of the state of Rhode Island, the sanctuary stretches between Cape Ann and Cape Cod in federal waters off of Massachusetts. It is home to over 575 species of marine life and is widely known as one of the richest marine habitats in the Gulf of Maine and is home to some of the largest seasonal aggregations of endangered whales along the Eastern seaboard of the U.S.

About Stellwagen Alive!

Stellwagen Alive! is an independent 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to restore and preserve the marine environment known as Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Stellwagen Alive also acts in an advisory capacity to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary office in Scituate, MA. www.stellwagenalive.org