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Divers Remove ‘Ghost Gear’ from Sanctuary Shipwreck

A team of specially trained divers removed derelict, or “ghost,” fishing gear from a shipwreck in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary on September 14 and 15 to make the site safer for divers, wildlife and robotic submersibles used for exploration and research.  The divers targeted a trawl net on the wreck of the coal schooner Paul Palmer, located near Provincetown , Mass.   By removing the net, the team reduced entanglement threats and increased the aesthetic value of this historic site. Divers from the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program, NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, and the University of Connecticut were part of the team that deployed off the new NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program research vessel, Auk, based at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary headquarters in Scituate , Mass.

One of the primary missions of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, part of the 14-site National Marine Sanctuary System, is to protect historic resources, including shipwrecks, and to enhance public awareness, understanding and appreciation of these archaeological sites.  Over the past several years, sanctuary researchers have been documenting the wreck of the Paul Palmer, which burned to the waterline and sank on Stellwagen Bank.  In local lore, the vessel is considered a “Hoodoo” ship, since it departed on its final voyage on Friday, June 13, 1913.

The underwater derelict gear removal project, funded by NOAA’s Marine Debris Grants Program, was scheduled to take place just prior to the International Coastal Cleanup, September 16 (with additional cleanups to occur in subsequent weeks). During the coastal cleanup, sponsored by The Ocean Conservancy, thousands of volunteers scour the nation’s beaches while recording the amounts and types of debris found along the shore.  In past years, large amounts of fishing lines, nets and associated fishing gear have been collected by cleanup participants.  In Massachusetts , the Coastal Zone Management Office and Urban Harbors Institute of the University of Massachusetts , Boston coordinate the annual event, called CoastSweep (  While the International Coastal Cleanup has occurred annually since 1986 and the Massachusetts program since 1987, the underwater derelict gear removal project at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is a new effort for 2006.

For more information, contact:

Anne Smrcina
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Phone:  781-545-8026, ext. 204

Diver Cutting net

A sanctuary diver cuts part of the derelict net draped over the Paul Palmer's windlass. Photo credit: NOAA/SBNMS

Paul Palmer Windlass

Earlier sanctuary missions to the wreck of the coal schooner Paul Palmer showed significant amounts of fishing gear. Photo credit: NOAA/SBNMS

Postcard of Palmer

The coal schooner Paul Palmer is pictured in this early 20th century postcard as it unloads coal. Courtesy: LARC

Ghost Net on Boat

Derelict gear cut away from the wreck of the Paul Palmer was collected on the deck of the sanctuary's Research Vessel Auk.
Photo credit: NOAA/SBNMS

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