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Traps 2 Treasure

Fund Raising Goal: $1.75 Million

Maine is known for its rocky coastline, picturesque lighthouses that dot the shore, and, of course, lobster


However, lurking beneath the tourmaline waters of the Gulf of Maine it is estimated that there is more than fifteen million ghost traps. Lying on the bottom, their buoy-less ropes drifting and tangling with anything that passes by, ghost lobster traps are a profuse problem. Ghost fishing gear (GFG) is discarded or lost fishing gear that continues to "fish" even in its abandoned form. The lost gear can be nets, traps, fishing line, and loose ropes. 

Why is ghost fishing gear a problem?

A typical lobster trap setup has a PVC coated wire trap or traps with a rope line that leads to a surface buoy. These traps sometimes lose their surface buoy and become irretrievable. This costs the lobster fishing community both their trap and access to good clear bottom to fish on. once these traps are lost on the bottom they continue to fish till they break down. However once they break down they begin to tumble and create bigger snarls and balls or traps that can also be the cause of  fishermen losing more gear due to tangles and snarls. 

Our endeavor to remove unwanted and lost gear began in 2019


When a piece of land near the transfer station in Gouldsboro Maine was donated to us. on that property we were able to construct our first trap recycling station. Our staff and volunteers process thousands of trash traps delivered by fishermen or collected by our divers and beach cleaners. They strip away the  aluminum funnel hoops, weights (bricks or ergo bricks) which can be resold and reused.  We will use the trap crusher designed at OceansWide to reduce the volume and increase transportability for recycling.

To accomplish our goal, we work with our community of Fishermen and concerned citizens to locate hot spots, remove unwanted gear , Return usable gear to fishermen, and to dispose of traps before they are lost on the sea floor 


This innovative program incentivizes the removal of unwanted, trash, and ghost lobster traps from dooryards, wharves, shorelines, and the water. Each trap earns its donor a $2 tax deduction. Your dooryard might be a vacation fund!

To date we have processed over 6000 Traps at our Gouldsboro Facility!

Our underwater removal process to the plunge in 2021


When we received funding to begin the removal of the ghost gear. In three months time we were able to retrieve and process more than 1,400 traps from Boothbay Harbor. We estimate there to be more than 35,000 traps in just this harbor alone - a job that will take us decades to accomplish without your help. 

Removing ghost lobster traps isn't all that we do when we're on the water 

In addition to removing the derelict lobster fishing gear from the bottom, we also collect data on the traps themselves. When we pull a trap from the water there are a few data points we collect before we bring it aboard: 

  1. Our researchers mark the trap's location on our GPS unit. With this data we can look for patterns of placement which may increase our efficiency over time.

  2. We note the condition of the trap. With this data we can do a couple of things:

    1. If the trap is in good condition, we will call the owner of the trap to see if they want it back. 

    2. if the trap is in poor condition, it gets crushed and disposed of.

  3. We also note whether the trap had any live or dead organisms in the trap at the time of removal. 

Below, you can see the data we collect expressed on a map. Geographic information systems (GIS) maps like the one below are crucial tools for understanding the impacts of ghost fishing gear in the Gulf of Maine. Programs like ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Online allow us to connect these data points to a map. For this study, an important aspect of our research is understanding the full distribution of ghost lobster fishing gear in Boothbay Harbor. In order for OceansWide to enact its mission and spread awareness about ghost lobster fishing gear, we need a mechanism for communicating the scale of the problem. It's easy to say that we've pulled 1,400 ghost traps, but displaying it is much more interesting and impressive. For reference, these points only show the location of the data and do not show any other data.

Esri, NASA, NGA, USGS, FEMA | Esri Canada, Esri, HERE, Garmin, SafeGraph, GeoTechnologies, Inc, METI/NASA, USGS, EPA, NPS, US Census Bureau, USDA


Map of known and estimated distribution of ghost lobster traps 

| Boothbay Harbor, Maine |

This GIS map shows the known distribution of ghost lobster traps in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. The data for the "known" locations was collected in fall 2021 by OceansWide researchers. The map will be updated on a weekly basis - so check back to see how our work is going!


Department of marine resources (DMR). (n.d.). Maine.Gov. Retrieved March 7, 2022, from

Losonci, I., Springuel, N., and Schmitt, C. (n.d.). The History of Maine Lobster Industry. Downeast Fisheries Trail. Retrieved April 10, 2022, from

Macreadie, P. I., Baird, M. E., Trevathan-Tackett, S. M., Larkum, A. W. D., & Ralph, P. J. (2014). Quantifying and modelling the carbon sequestration capacity of seagrass meadows--a critical assessment. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 83(2), 430–439.

Prosek, J. (2021, June 14). Maine’s having a lobster boom. A bust may be coming. National Geographic.

Stevens, B. G. (2021). The ups and downs of traps: environmental impacts, entanglement, mitigation, and the future of trap fishing for crustaceans and fish. ICES Journal of Marine Science: Journal Du Conseil, 78(2), 584–596.

OceansWide is working to grow this community based project and would not be where we are today without the support of those who donate!

Wishlist: Looking for trucks and trailers, a fork lift, work sheds, tools for dismantling traps (things that crush and cut, gloves for volunteers and students), and operational funds.


Click here if you would like to fulfill one of these needs. 



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