Federal stimulus money will be used to pay about 40 diving fishermen to recover lost fishing nets from the Puget Sound.

Due to the worldwide economic crises, many of the Puget Sound fishermen who normally make a living out of exporting cucumbers and sea urchins to Asia are currently out of work and the Northwest Marine Conservation Initiative has therefore received $4.6 million in stimulus funds to recover most of the nets that litter Puget Sound.

Thousands of large nets clutter the waters of Puget Sound where they continue to “ghost fish” for as long as their strong and durable synthetic fibres last. According to the Northwest Marine Conservation Initiative, the nets are responsible for killing tens of thousands of marine life, mammals and birds every year. The nets are also a hazard for maritime humans since they can tangle boat propellers and ensnare scuba divers. Modern fishing nets used by commercial fishermen tend to be very large and some of the nets lost in Puget Sound extend larger than a football field.

The only reason the nets have remained underwater for so long, said Ginny Broadhurst, director of the Northwest Marine Conservation Initiative, is because the damage they are doing to the environment is invisible from the surface.

If you had nets strung along the streets that are catching bunny rabbits and squirrels, we wouldn’t be discussing whether we should be removing them. We would be pulling them. It would be immediate,” said Broadhurst. “When those threats are underwater it’s so much harder to know what impacts they are having.”

Over the next 18 months the group expects to pull some 3,000 nets from Puget Sound.