Doug Monk has been a commercial diver on the Olympic Peninsula for some 20 years, harvesting shellfish and sea cucumbers. But for the past decade, he’s been after a different harvest: ghost nets.
Monk captains the 39-foot Bet Sea out into the waters of Puget Sound, just south of the Canadian border. He’s heading for a favorite fishing spot off Point Roberts, where a shallow shelf is lined with reefs and boulders. This is excellent habitat for migrating salmon and Dungeness crab.
“We pulled nets that have 50 to 60 birds in them. Twelve-hundred crabs,” he said from the captain’s chair. “I think if people realized the detriment it’s done to the waters they would have taken care of it a long time ago, but it’s good to see them doing it now.”
Monk hunts and gathers ghost nets for the Northwest Straits Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on Puget Sound.
The team finds the nets using underwater sonar and then sends divers down to remove them. Just in this one area off Point Roberts the foundation has removed close to 800 nets. There are about 300 left to pull up.