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TowBoatUS Ocean City Removes Harmful Fishing Nets Just One Day Ahead of Sea Turtle Release

"It Appeared to be Almost Alive, Like it Was Breathing"

Photo Credit: A 1,500 pound mass of tangled, derelict fishing net slowly comes aboard. Photo Credit: TowBoatUS Ocean City
Download hi-res photo.

OCEAN CITY, MD, August 11, 2016 – Earlier this summer, 3 miles of open water was all that separated two efforts to protect and nurture marine life on the Atlantic Coast.

On June 15, on waters as smooth as glass offshore of Ocean City, Maryland, a project led by the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water removed a large commercial fishing net entangled on an artificial reef. Nearby just one day later – and by complete coincidence – biologists from the National Aquarium Animal Rescue team released 12 rehabilitated sea turtles back to the wild.

Tasked for the Ocean City net removal project was Captain Rob Coperhaver of TowBoatUS Ocean City. By day, Coperhaver provides on-water towing services to recreational boaters, but on this early Wednesday morning his crew hunted down the wayward net. Marine debris like nets, fishing line, and derelict crab pots can snare and kill marine life long after they are lost or abandoned at sea.

While the net was scheduled to be removed the following week, sea conditions were too good to pass up. “We quickly located it, fully suspended in the water column,” said dive-team lead TowBoatUS Capt. Rick Younger. “It appeared to be almost alive, like it was breathing, opening, and closing with each movement of the ocean swell.”

The team dove on the wreck, identified lift points, and carefully brought the estimated 1,500 pounds of tangled net aboard for disposal. Funds for the project came from a $51,000 grant from the NOAA Marine Debris Program to remove large debris. TowBoatUS Ocean City and local monitoring agencies contributed matching funds through in-kind services. Since 2006, NOAA has supported more than 100 marine debris-removal projects across the country eliminating more than 5,500 metric tons of debris.

The timing for the project couldn’t have been better. Just one day later the turtles were released a short distance away. “At least we know this is one net that won’t harm any more marine life,” said Capt. Younger.


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Derelict fishing net hauled away by TowBoatUS Ocean City #BoatUSfdn

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On June 15, a few miles offshore of Ocean City, Maryland, on waters as smooth as glass, a project led by the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water removed commercial fishing nets entangled on an artificial reef

About the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water:

The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is a national leader promoting safe, clean and responsible boating. Funded primarily by donations from the over half-million members of Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), the non-profit provides innovative educational outreach directly to boaters and anglers with the aim of reducing accidents and fatalities, increasing stewardship of America's waterways and keeping boating safe for all. A range of boating safety courses – including 34 free state courses – can be found at

About the NOAA Marine Debris Program:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program (MDP) leads national efforts to research, prevent, and reduce the impacts of marine debris. Its staff, which is positioned across the country, supports marine debris projects in partnership with state and local agencies, tribes, non-governmental organizations, academia, and industry. The program also spearheads national research efforts and works to change behavior in the public through outreach and education initiatives.