Man standing at the front of his boat with a pile of derelict crab traps piled at the rear.

Reducing Ghost Fishing from Derelict Blue Crab Traps on the Mid-Texas Coast

To help address the problems associated with abandoned crab traps, the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program is organizing volunteers to systematically and comprehensively locate and remove traps in coastal waters from Matagorda Bay to Aransas Bay, Texas during the annual crab season closure.

Type of Project: Removal

Region: Gulf of Mexico

Project Dates: September 2020 - August 2023

Who is involved?
The Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program will work with the NOAA Marine Debris Program, San Antonio Bay Partnership, Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, Harte Research Institute, Matagorda Bay Foundation, Lavaca Bay Foundation, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and International Crane Foundation to coordinate the removal of derelict blue crab traps across three Texas bay systems, collect data about the impact the traps are having on the environment, and develop an outreach and education program based on the data to reduce the number of traps being lost in the future. 

What is the project and why is it important?
Derelict fishing gear, including crab traps, can cause significant problems for wildlife, the habitats they depend on, and the economy. Once lost or discarded, gear can continue to trap and kill fish, crustaceans, marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds. Derelict fishing gear can also damage sensitive habitats, cause problems for vessels by wrapping around rudders and propellers, ruin the gear of other fisheries, and compete with active fishing gear by trapping economically important species. 

This project will organize volunteers to systematically and comprehensively locate and remove derelict crab traps in coastal waters from Matagorda Bay to Aransas Bay during the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s 10-day closure period in February 2021 and February 2022. In addition to trap removal, volunteers will also be responsible for collecting specific information about each derelict trap. The data collected (e.g., species entrapped, number of species entrapped, habitat where traps found, habitat impacts) will assist in both the assessment of ecological and economic impacts from derelict crab traps, and a determination of the reason the trap was abandoned (e.g., abandoned in place or blown to shore, signs of entanglement with other fishing gear, buoy line cut, license number and owner information). Results will be used to engage commercial crabbers in San Antonio Bay in constructive, two-way conversations that seek to identify root causes of dereliction and develop alternatives that will reduce the number of lost traps, as well as ghost fishing and potential economic losses to fishers.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.

Last updated Tue, 08/08/2023 - 02:09 pm EDT