A Decade of Data to Combat Derelict Traps in Florida
Lobster trap-yard.
Lobster trap-yard.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the NOAA Marine Debris Program partner to use data to inform fishing choices.

What’s the project?
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) launched an education campaign to change behaviors and reduce derelict traps(also referred to as 'pots') and trap debris. The project leads are converting 10 years of scientific research regarding the environmental impacts of lost lobster traps in South Florida to practical knowledge that the public and fishing community can use to reduce the impacts of derelict traps.

FWC has participated in 13 outreach events to-date and will continue to provide derelict lobster and stone crab gear education materials to the public throughout 2014 and 2015. The suite of lobster biology and fishery history material FWC developed will be made available on the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute website and shared through social media.

• Almost 900 people viewed FWC’s posters, watched their videos, and played games developed specifically for local outreach events.

• FWC leads presented project information at the Beneath the Waves Film Festival in Fort Lauderdale, FL, reaching new, environmentally concerned groups, reaching outside the existing Florida Keys network.

• Presentations related to lobster trap debris were given to approximately 250 students at Coral Shores High School, Ocean Studies Charter School, and the Key West Library.

• FWC presented the South Florida lobster trap debris story to scientists and resource managers at the Florida Marine Debris Management Plan Meeting hosted by NOAA Marine Debris Program in May 2014.

• Next summer, Project leads will conduct fishermen workshops (mostly local commercial lobstermen) including presentations from academia, Florida SeaGrant, and other government resource specialists.

What does it accomplish?
Derelict fishing gear is a huge problem in South Florida; improving the practices that cause fishing gear debris and increasing participation in rule making (driven by public participation) will directly improve the South Florida ecosystems. The project will inform the public and fishing community, which will help individuals and policy makers make more informed decisions and ultimately reduce Florida’s derelict trap debris issues.

Who’s involved?
FWC collaborated with existing public outreach networks including Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Florida SeaGrant and research programs to educate various audiences on the impact of fishing debris (particularly derelict trap gear).

What’s something unique about this project?
FWC has created user-friendly educational materials centered on the problem of derelict fishing gear in South Florida. Pulling together field research data from previous years of investigation, FWC has produced a useful set of products that focus on known impacts of lost traps on the local habitat, and includes ways to prevent such traps from becoming debris in the first place.