Crab traps can be lost to storms, accidental catch in other gear, vandalism and when ropes connecting floats to the mesh pots aresevered by the propellers of passing boats. These traps often continue to capture marine animals like blue crabs and other species in a process called ghost fishing. They also pose a navigation hazard and can damage fishing nets.
To gain a better understanding of the problem and to reduce impacts to the environment, Louisiana Sea Grant and the LSU AgCenter are collecting information on lost crab traps as part of the Derelict Crab Trap Removal Program with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). Commercial and recreational crabbers are asked to report lost gear either online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/LMHYN7P, or by leaving a telephone message at (225) 578-6352. This information will only be used for data collection purposes and will not be used by enforcement officials.
“It’s difficult to collect accurate statistics on the number of traps lost each year,” said Julie Anderson assistant professor and fisheries specialist with Louisiana Sea Grant and the LSU AgCenter. “If recreational and commercial crabbers report their gear losses, this data will help guide future clean ups and will benefit the scientific community and crab management as well.”
Anderson said more than 1,400 traps lost in Hurricane Isaac have already been reported to the database.
“If you call in, please leave us as much information as possible including the date lost, the number of traps and the location,” said Paula Ouder, editor with Louisiana Sea Grant. “Any contact information will only be used if we need to clarify the information provided.”
In 2004, LDWF began the Derelict Crab Trap Removal Program with the help of regional volunteers and a host of other agencies and non-profit groups. Louisiana Sea Grant and the LSU AgCenter rejoined the effort last year with a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This year, volunteers removed nearly 2,800 traps from the waters of St. Bernard and Terrebonne parishes. Marty Bourgeois, a marine fisheries biologist with LDWF and a leader in the program said thetotal number of traps removed from coastal Louisiana since 2004 is 22,200.
Volunteers are now being sought for the 2013 Derelict Crab Trap Rodeos, scheduled for three Saturdays. The cleanups will be in Plaquemines Parish Feb. 16 and 23 and St. Bernard Parish on March 9. The events will feature free food, T-shirts and door prizes. The areas to be cleaned will be closed to all crabbing, and any traps found within the closure areas will be considered abandoned and subject to removal.
Anderson stressed that it is illegal to remove or possess crab traps belonging to someone else, except during these special closures.
Links to volunteer sign-up, the lost trap database, maps of the planned closure areas and more can be found at www.laseagrant.org/crabtraps/ or by contacting Anderson at JAnderson@agcenter.lsu.edu or (225) 578-0771.