Divers pulled more than 5,660 derelict fishing nets from Puget Sound’s shallow water — within 105 feet of the surface — as part of the work to remove lost and abandoned gear that had snared and indiscriminately killed marine life, sometimes for decades.
Bellingham-based Northwest Straits Foundation led the project. It started in 2002 and ended June 30 this year.
About 3,800 crab pots also were removed.
Doing so restored 813 acres of marine habitat, according to the foundation, which celebrated its achievement on Thursday, Aug. 13.
Removing derelict gear is a must because it traps and kills thousands of marine wildlife each year, smothers and degrades marine habitats, endangers recreational divers who could be trapped and drowned, and hurts navigation by fouling ships’ props, the foundation said.
Crews yanked 1,339 nets and 653 crab pots from marine waters in Whatcom County during the project.
A total of 102,212 animals were found dead or entangled in the abandoned gear taken out of Whatcom County waters since 2002. They represented 185 species, including porpoise, seal, cormorants, loons, grebes, China rockfish, copper rockfish, quillback rockfish, lingcod, salmon and Dungeness crab.
Across the Puget Sound, more than 466,000 animals, representing over 260 species, were found entangled in the lost and abandoned gear.