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Originally published Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Abandoned fishing-net removal aided by $4.6 million

Nearly all of the abandoned fishing nets in Puget Sound that kill marine animals and damage habitat will be removed with the help of $4.6 million in federal stimulus money.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Nearly all of the abandoned fishing nets in Puget Sound that kill marine animals and damage habitat will be removed with the help of $4.6 million in federal stimulus money.

The net-removal efforts are among six projects in the state that will receive $16.5 million for marine and coastal habitat restoration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Tuesday. Nationally, NOAA will distribute $167 million among 50 restoration projects.

Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Foundation will use the money to continue removing derelict fishing nets from the Sound, mostly near the San Juan Islands, said foundation Secretary Ginny Broadhurst.

This is the most money the foundation has ever received for gear removal, and it will allow divers and biologists to fetch about 3,000 lost fishing nets that trap animals and destroy seafloor habitat, she said.

Since 2002, the organization has removed more than 1,200 abandoned fishing nets.

"This is huge. We've always been asking ourselves, how are we going to get all of this out of here?" Broadhurst said.

The organization expects to employ about 40 people and complete the net removal over the next 18 months.

The Nature Conservancy's Fisher Slough project in the Skagit River delta will receive $5.2 million to restore about 60 acres of marsh habitat and improve fish passage. The Upper Skagit Tribe, Tulalip Tribes, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and Lummi Nation also received money for restoration projects.

NOAA officials reviewed more than 800 applications and chose restoration projects that could begin immediately, create jobs and be of lasting value to each community, said spokesman Brian Gorman.

Michelle Ma: 206-464-2303 or mma@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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