Upcoming Derelict Crab Trap Program Closure

Historical Success of the Program

Crab traps were introduced in Louisiana as early as 1948 and their use became widely accepted by the mid-1950s.  By the mid-1960s, crab traps had become the dominant gear in the fishery in terms of landings.  From the late 1970s through the present, trap landings have contributed over 99% of total blue crab and stone crab landings. Crab traps had several advantages over other gears (trotlines or drop nets) used to harvest blue crabs, including increased catch rates, ability to fish over a wide range of conditions, mobility, flexibility in work hours, and lower manpower requirements.

Large numbers of crab traps are lost or abandoned each year due to variety of reasons.  Trap loss may result from extreme weather conditions such as tropical storms or hurricanes.  Strong wind and wave action may displace traps or cause them to roll along the bottom submerging the buoy line and buoy.  Accidental clipping of the buoy lines by passing vessels, displacement of traps caught in shrimp gear, vandalism, improper disposal of old, unfishable traps and simple abandonment by fishermen leaving the fishery are other causes of trap loss. 

Since the vinyl coated wire mesh comprising modern crab traps may take years to degrade, the removal of these derelict and abandoned crab traps is especially important to boating safety and crab harvesting efforts. Removal of these traps reduces ghost fishing mortality of blue crabs and other marine organisms, reduces hazards to safe navigation and conflicts with other fishing gear and user groups and improves visual esthetics of state waterways.

Examples of derelict traps may range from a discarded “dry trap” tossed onto a shoreline to a submerged oyster-encrusted unfishable trap with or without line and buoy to a relatively new and fishable trap with buoy line and buoy.

Provisions in R.S. 56:332 provide authority to the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) to establish a program for the removal of derelict crab traps.  Two time windows are provided for the closures:

  • up to a 16 consecutive day period between February 1 and March 31,
  • up to a 14 consecutive day period which includes the opening of the spring inshore shrimp season.

Provisions in the statute also specify that the LWFC designate the following:

  • the beginning and ending dates of the trap closure,
  • the geographical area of the trap closure,
  • whom may remove the abandoned traps,
  • the locations where the removed abandoned traps are to be placed for disposal.

Derelict Crab Trap Removal Program Cleanup Areas (2004-2014)

 

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Annual derelict crab trap closure areas, dates, and trap totals.

 

2004

Upper Terrebonne  Bay Estuary

2/28-3/14

6,676

W. Vermilion Bay

5/14-5/22

   218

2004 TOTAL

 

6,894

2005

Sabine Lake

2/18-2/27

       4

Breton Sound Estuary

2/26-3/13

 1,941

Middle Terrebonne Bay Estuary

3/5-3/20

 2,437

E. Vermilion Bay / West Cote Blanche Bay

5/16-5/22

    241

2005 TOTAL

 

 4,623

2006

SW Terrebonne Bay Estuary

3/4-3/13

 2,935

2007

E. Lake Pontchartrain

2/24-3/5

    774

Upper Barataria Bay Estuary

3/3-3/12

    724

2007 TOTAL

 

 1,498

2008

Upper Terrebonne Bay Estuary

2/23-3/2

1,234

2009

Terrebonne Bay Estuary

N/A

788

2010

Upper Barataria Bay Estuary

2/27-3/7

477

2011

Western Plaquemines Parish

2/26-3/5

1,100

2012

St. Bernard/Plaquemines Parish

2/25-3/5

1,961

Terrebonne Parish

3/17-3/26

747

2012 Total

 

2,708

2013

Plaquemines Parish

2/16-2/25

492

St. Bernard Parish

3/9-3/18

411

2013 Total

 

903

2014

Western Terrebonne Parish

2/15-2/24

1,051

2004-2013

OVERALL

 

24,211

 

Support for individual volunteers and volunteer organizations have significantly contributed to the success of the derelict crab trap removal program; however, new approaches will need to be examined and implemented in order to more effectively deal with the problems of derelict crab traps.

 

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