Cornell University Cooperative Extension in Riverhead will receive a $130,000 federal grant to continue its ghost fishing retrieval program, which hires local fishermen to pull up thousands of abandoned lobster pots from Long Island Sound.
The Marine Debris Removal grant, secured by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is expected to remove 113 metric tons of fishing equipment, the senator’s office said in a statement.
Last year, two grants totaling $254,282 from the federal Fishing for Energy Fund and Long Island Sound Futures Fund were awarded to pay local lobstermen to pull up about 118 metric tons of lobster pots, many left in the water for decades.
The metal parts will be recycled and the rest will be taken to the waste-to-energy plant in Hempstead operated by Covanta Energy, a partner in the program.
Abandoned lobster pots can trap marine life and cause other environmental hazards when left behind, officials said. State law permits only the owner of a lobster pot to remove it, but the Department of Environmental Conservation approved the larger removal program, John Scotti, senior fishery specialist at the Cornell extension office said at last year’s event launching the program.
Since the program started last summer, about 45,000 traps have been pulled up. Under the new grant, five to 10 licensed lobstermen will be paid to find traps in both Mount Sinai Harbor and in the Long Island Sound at Mattituck.
Photo: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)