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Derelict Crab Trap Removal

Derelict crab traps are traps that have been lost or abandoned due to a number of reasons:

  • Separated from their buoys by tides, currents, storms, or passing boats
  • Caught in and displaced by shrimp gear
  • Vandalism
  • Improper disposal of old, unfishable traps
  • Poor assembly or maintenance of lines and floats
  • Abandoned by fishermen leaving the fishery.

Since most crab traps are made of vinyl coated wire mesh, it can take years for a derelict crab trap to degrade. In the meantime, these traps can “ghost fish”, which means they continue to capture blue crabs and other species. They can also create a navigational hazard for boats and become entangled in other fishing gear like shrimp nets.

The removal of derelict crab traps is essential for reducing mortality of blue crabs and other species due to ghost fishing. This also ensures safe navigation, reduces conflicts with other fisheries and user groups, and improves the aesthetics of state waterways.


Derelict Crab Trap Removal Program

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission established a Derelict Crab Trap Removal Program in 2004 to remove derelict crab traps from state-owned lake and river beds and other water bottoms and reduce their potential impacts. The program also collects data on the number and types of animals found in recovered traps. This program is funded in part by the sale of Louisiana crab fishing licenses and is run by LDWF, Louisiana Sea Grant, and volunteers.

Under this program, the Commission may close areas to crab traps during the following times every year:

  • A period not to exceed 16 consecutive days between February 1 and March 31
  • A period not to exceed 14 consecutive days, which includes the opening day of the spring inshore shrimp season
  • When crab harvest is closed for biological or technical reasons, the Commission may prohibit crab traps for the duration of the closure.

Any crab trap found in these areas of the state when the Commission has prohibited their use shall be considered abandoned and may be removed by persons authorized by the Commission.


2022 Crab Trap Closures

On August 5, 2021, the Commission adopted a Notice of Intent allowing the removal of derelict crab traps along Louisiana’s coast in 2022 from the following four areas:

  1. Terrebonne Basin: in an area southwest of Dularge, from 12 am Tuesday, February 1, 2022, through 11:59 pm Monday, February 14, 2022
  2. Vermilion Basin: in an area between the Acadiana Navigational Channel and East Cote Blanche Bay, from 12 am Tuesday, February 1, 2022, through 11:59 pm Monday, February 14, 2022
  3. Barataria Basin: in an area south of Lafitte, from 12 am Monday, February 7, 2022, through 11:59 pm Sunday, February 20, 2022
  4. Calcasieu Basin: in the West Cove portion of Calcasieu Lake, from 12 am Friday, February 18, 2022, through 11:59 pm Wednesday, February 23, 2022.

Closure Area Maps

Click each one to enlarge.

Statewide Map
Terrebonne Basin 
Vermillion Basin
Barataria Basin
Calcasieu Basin 

In the weeks leading up to the closures, LDWF will mail notices to all commercial crab trap license holders and crab buyers within the affected parishes as well as nonresident licensed crab fishermen who landed blue crab within the previous year from Louisiana waters.

Program Success

Since the Derelict Crab Trap Removal Program began, volunteers have helped remove more than 50,000 traps.

Year Area(s) Traps
2004 2 6,894
2005 4 4,623
2006 1 2,935
2007 2 1,498
2008 1 1,234
2009 1 788
2010 1 477
2011 1 1,100
2012 2 2,798
2013 2 969
2014 1 1,051
2015 1 422
2016 3 2,580
2017 6 5,674
2018 5 4,061
2019  5 4,041
2020 6 4,188
2021 4 5,163
Total  39 50,496