Tierra Verde, FL- Tampa Bay Watch has recruited volunteer boaters to participate in a crab trap removal effort on Saturday, July 11 at six locations (Belleair Bluffs, Upper Tampa Bay, Alafia River, Cockroach Bay, Boca Ciega Bay and Demen’s Landing) throughout Tampa Bay due to the regional closure of blue crab fishing. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has mandated a temporary closure for the harvest of blue crabs from traps in all waters of Broward through Pasco counties including the waters of Tampa Bay.
FWC is requiring regional closed seasons for the blue crab fishery to help facilitate efforts to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps in state waters of Florida. The local closure is from July 10-19 and extends out to three miles offshore and apply to both commercial and recreational free standing traps (blue crab traps attached to private property (i.e. docks) are excluded from the closure). All commercial and recreational traps left in state waters during the ten day closure will be considered derelict and can be removed. It is important to note that even though the fishery will be closed, not just anybody can remove a trap. Anyone interested in being involved must be a part of an organized effort that has been authorized by FWC. Three regional, 10-day blue crab trap closures take place in designated areas in Florida in odd- numbered years, and three other closures occur in even-numbered years.
Derelict and abandoned crab traps in the waters are a problem for several reasons: they continue to ghost fish (fishing that continues despite the inactivity of the trap) killing not only the crabs but several other recreationally and commercially important species; they pose a navigational hazard to boaters; they can cause damage to valuable and sensitive habitats such as seagrass or natural hardbottom environments. Manatees, dolphins and sea turtles can also become entangled in the trap line causing injury or death.
“This event is great because it gets community volunteers involved in helping to preserve and protect the bay by removing debris and keeping marine life from needlessly getting caught and killed in abandoned traps,” said Serra Herndon, Habitat Restoration Director for Tampa Bay Watch.
It is estimated that there are thousands of derelict crab traps that have been accumulating for decades in Tampa Bay. Each year, Tampa Bay Watch performs surveys to identify derelict traps and conducts clean-ups to remove them. Having conducted 28 crab trap removals since May 2004, Tampa Bay Watch has successfully removed 1,422 traps from the waters of Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay Watch will be partnering with ReelCycle for this important crab trap removal event. ReelCycle (www.reelcycle.org) is a 501(c)(3) entity that focuses on waste reduction and sound management practices for the fishing industry. Devin Sanderson, ReelCycle's Founder and President, said the following about this event: "Each year, hundreds of tons of derelict gear is discarded in landfills or illegally dumped, which can result in 'ghost fishing' or ‘ghost traps’. Ghost traps that are lost or abandoned continue to catch crabs and fish in large numbers, threaten stocks, and damage the marine environment. ReelCycle works to create recycling programs for undesirable gear, from collection through disposal, providing both conservation and socioeconomic benefits. ReelCycle will take the crab traps collected during the project and deliver the traps to a metal recycling who will process and melt down the traps to ultimately reuse into a another product. The non-metallic material collected such as stone crab traps, ropes, and floats will be incinerated and converted into energy though a waste-to-energy program. ReelCycle will be able to upcycle these traps into a renewable resource as opposed to being discarded in a landfill."
If you would like more information regarding the FWC's trap-retrieval program, blue crab trap closure dates, or regulations, that info is available online at MyFWC.com/Rules (click on "Fishing - Saltwater"). You can also contact FWC's trap-retrieval coordinator, Kyle Miller, at 850-487-0554.
This event would not be possible without the help from project partners including Sea World Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, ReelCycle, Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation, St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation, Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, Pinellas County & the City of Largo. For more information on Tampa Bay Watch’s local effort, please contact Serra Herndon at
email@example.com or 727-867-8166 ext. 227 for more information.