Summer is the busiest time of the year for the ferry system, with several million people likely to ride the ferries in June, July, and August. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Washington State Ferries (WSF) are jointly calling on recreational crab fishers to avoid placing their pots in the path of ferries this summer.They are also requesting crab pots be dropped far away from ferry docks and terminals.
In 2017, three different ferries were disabled by crab pots that were either improperly placed or drifted into the route after coming loose. Crab lines easily become tangled in the shafts of ships, stopping them dead in the water. Repairs are costly, and the reduced fleet puts more strain on the rest of the system.
“Crab pots caused the most severe damage to the propulsion system on the Salish ferry last summer,” said Greg Faust, director of WSF operations for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). “The loss of this vessel alone resulted in nearly 800 cancelled sailings on the Port Townsend/Coupeville and Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth routes as we shuffled boats around to balance service needs across our system.”
The recreational crabbing season began in most areas of the state on June 30, and the WDFW predicts that this year will be a good one, with above-average participation. “We need crabbers to help prevent conflicts with ferries as they hit the water this year,” said WDFW Police Captain Dan Chadwick. The WDFW offered several ways crab seekers can avoid any mishaps with ferries: use sinking lines or add weight to floating lines and use line that is one-third longer than the expected water depth. Be sure to monitor pots and make sure all are accounted for at the end of the day. Use a little extra weight on the pots; even ten pounds can keep a pot in place. Finally, tag all pots with your name and address, and use bio- degradable cotton threads so lost pots don’t continue to kill crabs.
Crabbing will be open Thursday through Monday this summer and closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The WDFW would like to remind crabbers that all shellfish gear must be removed from the water at the end of the day. Captain Chadwick also notes that over 12,000 crab pots go missing each year, and crab fishers are required to report all lost crab pots by calling 1-855-542-3935 or visiting wdfw.wa.gov. There is no penalty for reporting lost gear.