Tuesday, August 21, 2012

We've been busy- Part II-White and Seavey Islands

Last week was a crazy, exhausting, fun and an eye-opening week.  What I am learning about marine debris and derelict fishing gear and how to go about cleaning it up and putting a positive face on it is at once really interesting and extremely frustrating.  Along with working with volunteers and other partners, we also have to work within the confines of the law regarding what derelict/abandoned fishing gear can actually be touched - if it can be touched and removed at all.  We are very conscious of this with this project and we spend many hours on back and forth emails and telephone calls trying to figure out how on earth we can remove some of the trashed, unfishable lobster traps that we find both on the mainland and on the Isles of Shoals.  By law- no one except the owner of the lobster trap and buoys or a New Hampshire Fish and Game Officer can touch or remove any lobster gear regardless of its condition- unless said owners or CO's (conservation officers) give permission. 

So, knowing this, it is incredibly frustrating to see traps piling up on our beaches, underwater and on the Isles of Shoals.  While I understand why the law is in place, I wonder why it is so difficult to have some means by which any trashed, unfishable pot or buoy, that has obviously been there for years, can't be considered abandoned and thus, litter, and thus, free to be removed and disposed of.  I understand it is a slippery slope and one we are trying to navigate as we proceed with our debris removals. HOWEVER, having said all of this- it is with great appreciation and thanks to Conservation Officer Erik Floutte, that I go on to report on last week's White Island and Seavey Island clean-up!

On a previous post about the White Island Survey that we conducted earlier in the summer, we reported that there were numerous abandoned traps and other debris and that it was surprising how much was out there. Little did we know how many traps and other debris was out there and how long Dan and Melissa Hayward, who are in charge of the Tern Restoration Project on White Island, had been staring at it with no way of dealing with it.  As we began tackling the giant pile of traps, buoys, wood and other accumulated debris on the shore of White, Dan Hayward simply said " I have been looking at this pile of debris for 16 years". 16 years.

This giant pile of traps and other debris was the first thing that greets you upon setting foot on White

Our day began very early. We left Rye Harbor at 7 AM aboard the Yesterday's Storm with a skiff in tow and 5 volunteers including Anna Manyak one of  NOAA's Marine Debris Program Regional coordinators. We met Dan Hayward and his intern and began to strategize about the best way to begin.  

We had wanted to get an early start to take advantage of the extra help we had and also so that we could finish the clean up on the early side because we would have an extra couple of hours of unloading and disposing of the debris once we got back to Rye.  

Once the CO arrived we could begin. Equipped with volunteers and supervision and approval to remove unfishable traps by NH Fish and Game CO Floutte, we began to tug, pull, yank and  dig this tangle of plastic covered metal apart and began to load the skiff.  As we tackled this giant pile, we also split up so that some of us began to collect and remove other marine debris from the White shoreline including plastic bottles, plastic bits, loads of styrofoam, metal, nails and other litter.  

Another group of us headed over to Seavey Island, which is immediately adjacent to White, to begin surveying and assessing the best way to remove gear and other debris without disturbing the roseate terns that were still there.  With the consent of the CO, we began to pile up the derelict traps above the high tide mark and began to remove as much of the other litter as we could because we would eventually run out of time and room on the Yesterday's Storm.  We did remove all of the non-gear litter that we found on Seavey but will have to return to remove the 14 or so traps that were left.

In the meantime- the giant pile of traps and wood on White was getting smaller and smaller as we removed them and transferred them from shore to skiff to Yesterday's Storm

NH Fish and Game Conservation officer Erik Floutte overseeing the trap handling.  Notice the three traps on the left that he determined could be returned to their owner. Also not the significant reduction in the size of the pile! Seavey Island was once again visible!
In the end we could not remove every trap from that pile because we did run out of room on the boat.  Lee Schatvet, the Captain of the Yesterday's Storm, said that his boat was listing to the left a few inches from the weight of the debris and on the steam home he noted that we were a knot or two slower than normal, again because of the weight of the debris.

The Yesterday's Storm- filled to the brim!
It was an exhausting day! We grudgingly had to acknowledge that the Yesterday's Storm could not hold any more debris AND have enough room for us! We made the hard decision to leave the traps on Seavey and the rest of the traps on White (which were also buried under a heavy pile of wood debris) for a later date.  The crater that was left after we removed most of the enormous pile was really ugly and garish and initially I felt badly- that we would be leaving the island in such as state, but then I remembered that the pile had been growing for 16 years and that for the first time in 16 years that pile was no longer an identifying feature on the shoreline of this beautiful island refuge. All told we removed approximately 66 derelict, unfishable lobster traps from White Island and in reality it was probably closer to 75 traps if we were to put all of the pieces of trap back together!  

With an average weight of 40 lbs we estimate that we loaded somewhere in the neighborhood of 2600+ lbs of derelict gear and about 150-200 lbs of other marine debris.  We are still waiting to find out the actual tonnage from Waste Management but we all guessed how much we actually hauled back.  

What we removed from White filled a 30 yard dumpster...
Despite the law, we had a really successful clean up. We had a great CO that worked well with us and tried very hard to explain what some of the challenges were from his end of things which was really good to know for future reference. He also returned 3 fishable traps to their owner (who said he lost them 8 years ago). 

Although we couldn't take every trap and every buoy off the islands on this trip we did make significant headway and we left White and Seavey Islands that much better and safer for the terns who nest there. We also broke the cycle of debris accumulation on White and we predict that we will never remove that much debris in one clean up from these islands again.

And that felt awesome! 

We hope this is something we never see again on White and Seavey! Leave the terns- remove the tire!

Next up...Appledore round 2 and Smuttynose!

Thanks to Lee Schatvet, Capt., Yesterday's Storm, Sue Reynolds, Owner, Uncle Oscar and founder of the Lighthouse Kids,Pete Reynolds, Owner, Granite State, Dan Hayward and Lara from the Tern Restoration Project, The Prospect Mountain High School Outing Club-Alumni (Joe Derrick, Josh Soucie, Dylan Parker. Julie Parker, Cristina Varney), NH Fish and Game, NH Port Authority and NOAA for their help with this cleanup!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like alot of work! And a ton (ha, ha) of traps! Good job everyone...