Biologists in Dillingham say abandoned nets are getting caught in local waterways and causing problems for wildlife.
For the second year in a row, biologists in Dillingham are grappling with the problem of abandoned nets getting caught in Squaw Creek. On Tuesday, Tim Sands trudged into the mud on the banks of the creek to try in efforts to remove one that was snagged deep in the channel.
Sands is an area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He said this is the third net he’s seen in the creek in just two years; and he has spotted others in the Wood River. According to Sands, the stuck nets, he said, have been hurting local wildlife.
“One had a dead otter in it,” he said. “Pieces and parts of other fish, and I think a bird too.”
Abandoned gear is preventable, and ADF&G encourages fishermen to take good care of their nets to keep them from getting stuck in rivers and creeks that are home to fish and other animals.
“We really want people to be careful with their nets,” Sands said. “Don’t leave them on the bank. When you’re done with it, put it away. Don’t leave it in a pile somewhere where the tide could get it or somebody else could kick it into the water.”
Stuck nets can also be hard to retrieve. Sands and another biologist tried to pull the Squaw Creek net out with a winch cable at low tide, but the deep mud made it impossible for them to reach it, and the net remains stuck at the bottom of the creek. But steps can be taken to keep this from happening in the future.
“Commercial fishermen, if they lose nets, they are required to report the lost net to the Fish and Game within 15 hours,” Sands said.
Fishermen can take unwanted nets to the web recycling van at the harbor and throw out damaged lines at the landfill. If they don’t, according to Sands, nets will continue to get stuck and harm mammals, birds, and some of the pink and coho salmon that travel up tributaries like Squaw Creek.
Fishermen can report lost nets to ADF&G in Dillingham and King Salmon or to the Alaska Wildlife Troopers in Dillingham.
Dillingham ADF&G: (907) 842-5227
King Salmon ADF&G: (907) 246-3341
Dillingham Alaska Wilidlife Troopers: (907) 842-5351