Volunteer-Aided Derelict Blue Crab Trap Removal Program in Alabama
Volunteers picking up derelict crab pots.
Volunteers are working to remove derelict crab traps from various locations in Alabama as part of this project. (Photo Credit: Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources)

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, with support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, is monitoring and removing derelict crab traps in Southern Alabama.

Type of Project: Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant

Region: Gulf of Mexico

Project Dates: August 2016 - April 2019

Who is involved?
With support from a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is leading the effort to monitor derelict crab traps through on-water surveys and counts. In addition, they are working with local volunteers to remove derelict traps and to promote the use of turtle excluder devices and juvenile blue crab escape rings, with assistance from the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program.

What is the project and why is it important?
Derelict crab traps are an issue in the navigable waters of Mobile Bay, resulting from either loss or abandonment due to a variety of potential factors including storms or severe weather, entanglement with other fishing gear, or buoy lines cut by passing boats. Once left in the environment, derelict traps can continue to capture marine animals—a phenomenon called ‘ghost fishing.’ By continuing to entrap and entangle both target and non-target species, derelict crab traps can cause economic losses for fishermen.

This project is identifying and monitoring the areas in Mobile Bay, Mississippi Sound, Weeks Bay, Perdido Bay, and Wolf Bay that are most impacted by derelict crab traps. Based on the locations that are identified, three volunteer removal programs (conducted during Fall 2016, Spring 2018, and Spring 2019) are working to remove and dispose of derelict traps, identify and count the animals that have been caught by them, and provide multi-age educational materials on the impacts of derelict crab traps on the environment. Post-cleanup monitoring is being used to assess the removal efforts. In addition, a database is being created and maintained to capture the number of derelict crab traps that are detected and removed, the identification and species of animals caught in the traps, and the number of traps that have modifications such as escape rings, turtle excluder devices, or degradable panels.