The Ghost Gear Project


Sandwich Marina, it was a GORGEOUS morning!

“Ghost Gear Project,” what does that make you think of? It made me think of people buying gear to make themselves look like ghosts….riiiiight..cause THAT happens in the middle of June. (I obviously had the WRONG idea). Today I met Vin Malkoski, along with Derrick, Steve, and Mike, at the Sandwich Marina in the Cape Cod Bay area to help-out with the Massachusetts’ Department of Marine Fisheries’ (DMF) “Ghost Gear Project.” After they got the boat in the water and our gear was loaded, we headed out into the bay. Turns out that the Ghost Gear Project has to do with diving…and lobsters. Basically the DMF wants to know what happens to lobster traps that get lost and just sit at the bottom of the ocean with no one to tend to them, like ghosts.

Launching the boat!

So, they lowered a bunch of lobster traps along several different lines at a few different sites, and left them there. Just like that. This way it simulates what would happen if a trap got lost in a storm or something. Then they go back every two weeks to record what’s going on inside the traps; are the traps still catching lobsters? How many? Are they alive? Dead? How big are they? What gender? What else is in the trap? They do all of this in order to answer the questions like “How do “ghost traps” affect marine wildlife, and for how long do they have this affect?” “Do these traps really self-degrade like they are supposed to?” It’s an extremely interesting experiment, and I got to help with it!

Steve and Derrick measuring a lobster from one of the traps.

Once we arrived at one of the sites, everyone (except Mike….cause someone’s gotta stay with the boat) all suited up in our gear.I was the only person wearing a drysuit, and let me just say, I was SOOO happy I had it after diving in Florida! My DUI pajamas and suit were my new best friends! After that, the four of us rolled-off the boat, and the fun began! We would go down the anchor line and then find the lines tied near it. Then we would follow the lines till we hit a lobster trap, and Derrick and Steve would open it and record data on their wet-note sheets. Vin had a big video camera, so he got lots of footage. I had my little Olympus camera, and was experimenting with taking photos (I also took a bunch of landscape ones before we got in the water). Towards the end of the dives I started to get the hang of it, but I’m no pro yet. After they finished recording their data, we would continue down the line till we found the next trap, and the next, and the next. It was really neat because some traps were newer than others, and you could see how much they degraded over time.

There was a BLUE lobster in one of the cages!

We did two of these dives, and it was a really cool to actually go down and see underwater research being done. When we had to swim along the lines looking for the next trap we got the chance to look around and enjoy all of the other critters down there. There were a TON of starfish! We also saw sea ravens and a few skates. I had a mini moment of glory when I discovered a random pair of calipers among some seaweed during one of these in-between trips. Turns out they lost them a few weeks back! When everything was said and done, we headed back to shore. I gotta say, these guys have got some pretty cool STILL got cold, even with my drysuit!! (I think Florida spoiled me! :P) But seriously, it was a bucket of fun, and a great learning experience. I hope I get more opportunities to help-out in the future!