Volunteers remove derelict crab traps during a past cleanup sponsored by Tampa Bay Watch.
TIERRA VERDE – Tampa Bay Watch is recruiting volunteer boaters to participate in removing crab traps July 13 from six locations: Belleair Bluffs, Upper Tampa Bay, Alafia River, Cockroach Bay, Boca Ciega Bay and Demen’s Landing in Tampa Bay.
The traps must be removed due to the regional closure of blue crab fishing.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 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. Volunteer boaters interested in participating in the event should register on tampabaywatch.org or call 727-867-8166, ext. 233.
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. The closure area extends out to three miles offshore and applies to both commercial and recreational free standing traps. Blue crab traps attached to private property, such as docks, are excluded from the closure.
All commercial and recreational traps left in state waters during the 10-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, and 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.
Officials estimate that thousands of derelict crab traps have been accumulating for decades in Tampa Bay. Each year, Tampa Bay Watch performs surveys to identify derelict traps and conducts cleanups to remove them. Having conducted 22 crab trap removals since May 2004, Tampa Bay Watch has successfully removed 1,187 traps from the waters of Tampa Bay.
For more information on FWC's trap-retrieval program, blue crab trap closure dates, or regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Rules and click on "Fishing – Saltwater”, or call FWC's trap-retrieval coordinator, Kyle Miller, at 850-487-0554.
Project sponsors for the event include Sea World Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation, Hillsborough County Public Utilities, Republic Waste Services, Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, Pinellas County and the city of Largo.
For more information on Tampa Bay Watch’s local effort, email Serra Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 867-8166, ext. 227.