Removing and Managing Derelict Fishing Traps in Puerto Rico

Two men stand on a beach next to a pile of collected crab traps.
Derelict crab traps collected after just four boat trips in Naguabo, Puerto Rico (Photo: The Ocean Foundation).

The Ocean Foundation is collaborating with fishing groups, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, and local non-governmental organizations to address undocumented and derelict fishing traps in Puerto Rico. 

Type of Project: Fishing for Energy Grant

Region: Florida and Caribbean

Project Dates: January 2019 - January 2021

Who is involved?
The Ocean Foundation, with the support of a Fishing for Energy grant, a partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Covanta, and NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, will collaborate with the fishing sector, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, and local non-governmental organizations to address illegally placed derelict fishing traps in Puerto Rico. 

What is the project and why is it important?
Divers noted a high number of illegally set fishing traps. These unauthorized traps can negatively impact the fishing community by competing with fishers that have licenses, and damaging the surrounding environment. By removing these traps, The Ocean Foundation hopes to protect and prevent fishing trap damage to coral reefs. 

The project will focus on high priority areas of the coral reef, such as Eastern Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra, where there is extensive use of unregulated trap fishing gear. It also aims to work with the fishing community and local government to conduct a large scale removal of derelict traps, reducing damage to coral reefs and “ghost fishing” of non-target fish species. Working with the industry to conduct removals and to improve compliance with fishing regulations is critical to prevent further damage to coral reefs.  

In addition to removing and properly disposing of traps, The Ocean Foundation will develop a long-term disposal plan for derelict fishing traps, management recommendations, and educational materials on the impacts of derelict fishing gear in Puerto Rico.