The State Organization Index provides an alphabetical listing of government organizations, including commissions, departments, and bureaus.
Top-requested sites to log in to services provided by the state
Massachusetts has a rich relationship with the American lobster (Homarus americanus)—from its origins as a cheap source of sustenance for servants and prisoners to fetching a pretty penny as a highly desirable entrée, lobster has been fished in the Bay State since Native American and Colonial times. The primary method of catching lobsters is by lobster pots (since the good old days of collecting the masses that wash up on shore are long gone). This gear—being subject to the elements of the ocean—can become lost, abandoned, or damaged and cause unintended impacts to the marine environment. This CZ-Tip provides information on lobster gear as marine debris; efforts from industry, resource managers, and private companies to address the problem; and what you can do to help.
In 2015, roughly 325,000 pots were set in Massachusetts coastal waters and 16.3 million pounds of lobster were landed. With all that gear catching all that lobster, it is inevitable that some pots becomes lost—whether by storms and currents, snagging on the ocean bottom, entanglements with other vessels, or wear and tear over time. Regulations that require lobster pot lines to have “weak links” (lines that are allowed to break free when encountered by a whale) and mandatory sinking ground lines (lines that rest on the bottom and are at greater risk of abrasion) have been very successful in protecting whales from entanglement, but can also make it easier for gear to be lost in the ocean. Lost fishing gear is known as “ghost gear” because it can continue to catch fish and wildlife that are not retrieved or released. Lost gear can also damage habitats, contribute to the trash floating in the ocean (aka “marine debris”), and act as a hazard by damaging boat hulls and becoming wrapped around propellers and even active fishing gear. The issue is more prevalent now that the materials used to make lobster pots have become more durable (steel and plastic are typically replacing wood and cotton), preventing the breakdown of the gear and allowing it to linger longer.
To prevent ghost fishing and other impacts of lost gear, the lobster industry, resource managers, private companies, and others have been working to improve gear design and actively remove lost gear from the oceans and shores. The following efforts are helping to protect marine resources while supporting local fishing communities and industries:
Microbe Escape Panels
A study at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) has discovered a way to create an escape vent made of biodegradable materials that can be broken down by marine microbes, providing an avenue for escape when the pots are left in the water for extended periods. In the dark ocean waters, bacteria grow on this biodegradable material and consume the panels. When pots are exposed to UV light during active fishing, however, the growth of the bacteria is hindered and the panels last longer. See the VIMS Marine Debris Project: Biodegradable Cull Panels web page for more information.
These options can also help you become part of the solution for preventing marine debris: