TPWD News Release — Jan. 22, 2008
AUSTIN, Texas — Hoping to add to the mountain of 22,746 derelict crab traps hauled from Texas bays over the last six years, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials are gearing up for the 7th Texas Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program, running this year from Feb. 15-24.
During this 10-day period, all Texas bays will be closed to crabbing with crab traps and any traps left in the bay will be presumed to be abandoned and considered litter under state law, thus allowing volunteers to legally remove any crab traps they find.
Before the 77th Legislature authorized the abandoned crab trap removal program, only the trap’s owner or a TPWD game warden could legally remove a crab trap.
State game wardens pick up more than 2,500 traps annually, yet there are many more still in the water to foul shrimpers’ nets, snag fishermen’s lines and create an unsightly view of Texas shores.
Volunteers are needed to assist in the coast-wide effort to remove the numerous wire mesh cages used to catch crabs that have been lost or abandoned since last year’s cleanup and in years past.
To facilitate volunteer trap removal efforts this year, TPWD staff will designate sites in each of the eight major bay systems for trap collection.
Areas that are relatively free of abandoned traps will have stand alone sites with dumpsters marked for trap removal.
In other areas where more effort is need, sites will be manned until noon on Saturday, Feb. 16, weather permitting and have stand-alone dumpsters for the duration of the closure. For those who choose to work on their own, TPWD requests information about the number of traps that are collected.
Volunteers can work at their own pace during the closure as time and weather permit, but cannot remove traps before Feb. 15 or after Feb. 24. Any crabs found in the traps must be set free. Last year, volunteers with the aid of numerous sponsors removed more than 2,000 traps.
"This volunteer based program has exceeded our wildest imaginations. So good in fact we are working ourselves out of a job," said Art Morris, TPWD program coordinator. "Overall, the coast looks great in terms of the number of derelict traps people encounter. But in some areas, we could still use a little tidying up."
According to Morris, the major problem with abandoned crab traps is that many continue to fish after they are lost — which is referred to as "ghost fishing."
"Thirty six species of aquatic organisms have been documented in these lost traps, many commercially or recreationally important," Morris said. "And the list even includes species of special concern, like diamondback terrapins. During the event in 2006, the remains of a river otter were removed from a lost trap in Galveston Bay."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program, Coastal Conservation Association Texas, Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, and the Cecil M. Hopper Museum are providing significant support to the crab trap removal program. Additional help is coming from numerous organizations, companies and others who are volunteering their services.
To participate, volunteers can pickup free tarps, gloves, trap hooks and additional information at each of the sites or their local TPWD Coastal Fisheries Field Stations.
To volunteer or for more information contact your local TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division office listed below or contact Art Morris TPWD Outreach Specialist at (361) 825-3356.