The National Sea Grant Law Center


  • Increasing Awareness of the Legal Framework Governing Removal of Marine Debris and Placement of Fishing Gear in the New England Region

  • Lost nets and other heavy fishing equipment can damage ecosystems as they are moved by tides and waves along the sea floor. Derelict fishing gear also impacts navigational safety, damages active fishing equipment and boats, and causes economic repercussions for coastal industries and communities across the country. The laws and regulations governing the removal of derelict fishing gear vary by fishery and state. To assess the feasibility of implementing innovative removal strategies in their states, New England managers need a better understanding of the current legal framework governing derelict fishing gear removal and how existing state marine debris programs are authorized. In 2015, the National Sea Grant Law Center received a grant award from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Fishing for Energy Partnership to meet this need. “Increasing Awareness of the Legal Framework Governing Removal of Marine Debris and Placement of Fishing Gear in the New England Region” aims to help New England managers assess the feasibility of implementing innovative derelict fishing gear removal strategies in their states.

  • DFG Summaries and Case Studies

    As a first step towards increasing awareness and improving understanding of state derelict fishing gear laws and regulation, the NSGLC compiled the relevant laws and regulations related to derelict fishing gear for eleven priority states as identified by NFWF (Washington, California, Maine Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, Alabama, Connecticut, and Rhode Island). Relevant statutory and regulatory provisions were identified through traditional legal research methods. Each state compilation was sent to appropriate state agency contacts for review and feedback.

  • The NSGLC then analyzed the compiled laws and regulations to address several key management questions identified by the project Advisory Committee. For each state, the NSGLC identified the following: state definitions for derelict fishing gear; requirements for marking gear and attending gear; prohibitions on “molesting” gear; requirements or authorizations to remove gear; closed periods for gear removal; and, other relevant definitions for derelict or abandoned property.

  • In addition to identifying the priority management questions, the Committee also identified derelict fishing gear removal programs and strategies that could potentially be used by New England states. The NSGLC drafted legal cases studies of these six programs to gain a solid understanding of how they operate and provide a foundation for assessing their transferability to the New England region. Each short (2-3 page) narrative case study details how the program was authorized, responsible entity, and regulatory and permitting requirements.

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  • Transferability Report
    The report, “Transferability of Innovative Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Strategies to Northeast States,” first summarizes the existing legal framework governing derelict fishing gear and removal programs for each of the five New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island). The full state analysis is located in Appendix A of this document. The report then compares the five New England states to each case study, identifying transferability of similar programs to each state. The report notes any gaps and identifies actions needed to implement similar programs.

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  • Vessel Interaction Study
    The NSGLC issued a subcontract to its project partner, the Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program at the Roger Williams School of Law, to examine the legal and regulatory opportunities for preventing gear loss from vessel interactions in the New England region. This study sought to increase understanding of the causes of gear loss to provide a sound foundation for policy actions that may be needed to reduce gear loss and prevent its consequent harms. This study included findings from two areas of research. First, the research team conducted interviews with harbormasters from each state in New England to understand and characterize the frequency and causes of vessel-gear interactions known to harbormasters across the region. Second, the team conducted legal research to identify the legal requirements for gear placement in relation to navigational areas. Research in each area was presented in the report, “Preventing Fishing Gear Loss from Vessel Interactions in New England,” published in August 2017. The report also includes a discussion of the challenges, opportunities, and solutions drawn from key findings derived from the research.

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