There's something scary beneath the waters of Maine, and it has nothing to do with resident author Stephen King; it's ghost lobster traps that have state officials and some lobstermen afraid.
Ghost traps are those lobster traps that cut loose, for one reason or another, from their buoys. They actively attract lobster for as long as the bait lasts and some think they could continue to draw them in long after.
The problem isn't unique to Maine and is happening everywhere humans throw traps in the water, but in Maine they're actually starting to do something about it. The Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation received a $200,000 grant to study ghost traps and will hire 10 lobstermen in each of Maine's seven
harbors individual lobster management zones (thanks Anon commenter for the correction) to drag for lost traps this winter and spring. The purpose of the study is to see how many lobsters are lost to the traps after the bait runs out. If they find the traps are still effective, modifications in trap designs could be made to allow them to naturally open up if left sitting on the bottom of the sea.
Maine lobsterman use more than 2 million traps every year. An estimated 5 to 10 percent are lost, meaning there could easily be millions of these ghost traps on the bottom of the sea.
Some lobsterman contend that even more traps are lost now that new regulations governing the ropes they use to attach the traps to the buoys are in effect. Their old ropes would float but because of concerns that they were tangling up right whales, they were outlawed in favor of sinking ropes that are more likely to drag and break along the rocky bottom.
I think Holly Bamford, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Debris Program, said it best when she told the AP, "It would be very interesting if we could drain the ocean and look at what's down there. We might be surprised."
I think it would blow our minds to see how trashy the bottom of the ocean floor is.
I honestly fear for the ocean. We have a hard enough time as it is protecting the wilderness that we CAN see here on land. It's entirely too easy to destroy things under water and never see it happening. On top of overfishing, chemical pollution, entire continents of plastic trash, and acidification, there's now ghost traps.
Are you scared?
Are you on Twitter? Follow me (@sheagunther) there, I give good tweets.
And if you really like my writing, you can join my Facebook page.