baby lobster
Image by Jackie Wilson

Juvenile lobster removed from an abandoned trap

Cedar Beach Derelict lobster project (1)
Image by Rory MacNish

Cedar Beach - Mount Sinai, NY

Cedar Beach Derelict lobster project (4) parking lot
Image by Rory MacNish

Lobster Traps ready to be recycled at Gershow

der lobster trap rem 2
der lobster trap rem 1
der lobster trap rem 5
der lobster trap rem 4
der lobster trap rem 7
der lobster trap rem 3

Derelict Lobster Trap Removal Projects

Since 2010, Cornell Cooperative Extension’s (CCE) Marine Program has conducted several research projects to remove derelict/abandoned lobster traps in the Long Island Sound (LIS) at the ports of Mattituck, Mount Sinai and Northport. The successes of the projects were manifested through the cooperation of the lobster industry through the completion of surveys, planning sessions of operation field plans, and executing the fieldwork. These programs proved that a substantial quantity of derelict lobster traps have accumulated in the LIS and need to be removed.

While these traps not only contribute to the ongoing problems associated with marine debris, a significant number of them are still catching lobsters and are thus adding to the “fishing effort” for lobsters in LIS. CCE data shows that 20% of the derelict lobster traps recovered had one or more lobsters in them and of this 20%, 4% of the lobsters were dead. This is known as “ghost fishing”.

To date, a total of 19,000 derelict lobster traps have been recovered from the New York waters of the LIS. This is equivalent to an estimated total weight of 950,000 pounds. As a result of these projects, 430.9 metric tons of derelict lobster traps have been removed from the LIS. These traps were recycled or returned to their owners. The burnable debris from the derelict lobster traps is converted into renewable energy at the Covanta Energy “energy from waste” recovery facility.

In 2019, CCE was awarded funding through the NFWF Fishing For Energy program to continue the derelict lobster trap removal effort. CCE will conduct 52 research trips from the aforementioned ports with a goal of removing approximately 3,500 more traps from the LIS. CCE continues educational outreach with the commercial lobster industry and local officials in order to promote environmental stewardship and awareness, as well as improve management practices by providing the template for recycling, proper storage practices and disposal activities for inactive fishing gear.

CCE Marine Program completed the projects listed below.

Last updated March 13, 2023