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$4.6 million to remove derelict fishing gear from region's waters

The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative has been awarded $4.6 million in economic stimulus funding from NOAA to pull derelict fishing nets from Puget Sound.

These funds, directed to the non-profit foundation arm of the Northwest Straits Initiative, will allow the immediate hire of vessels and crews to remove an estimated 3,000 nets from the seafloor. The project will employ 40 people, restore 645 acres of marine habitat, and will be completed in 18 months.

“Derelict fishing nets are actively killing enormous numbers of fish, seabirds and other marine animals," Northwest Straits Foundation secretary Ginny Broadhurst said in a press release. "We now have the funding needed to get 90 percent of the derelict nets out of Puget Sound forever. These waters will be safer for boaters, divers and marine life."

The derelict fishing gear project will stimulate the marine economy in Puget Sound by creating 40 living-wage jobs.

“We’re going to employ people who wouldn’t be working without this project, and the work is incredibly valuable to Puget Sound,” Broadhurst said. In addition to creating jobs and restoring marine habitat, the project will protect crabs and fish valued commercially in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"We are ecstatic that NOAA has funded this crucial program, a near-term priority in the Puget Sound Partnership's Action Agenda," said David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership and a governor-appointed representative to the Northwest Straits Commission. "We look forward to continuing our support to the NWSC and helping them achieve their project goals."

Joe Gaydos, a governor-appointed Northwest Straits commissioner and chief scientist for the SeaDoc Society, said, "This is a no-brainer, win-win situation: we're creating jobs, improving the health of the marine ecosystem and really saving money in the long run when you compare the economic costs of having these nets continue to kill marine fish and wildlife. What's not to love about this?"

Since 2002, the Northwest Straits Initiative has removed more than 1,200 derelict fishing nets. According to the initiative, the removal has helped restore more than 240 acres of marine habitat and save millions of animals from incidental death each year.

Visit www.derelictgear.org and www.nwstraits.org.

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