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
- 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.
2024 Crab Trap Closure
On August 3, 2023, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) adopted a Notice of Intent (NOI) allowing the removal of derelict crab traps along Louisiana’s coast in 2024 from the four following described areas:
- The first closure will occur in the Pontchartrain Basin, between southern Lake Borgne and the eastern portion of the Biloxi Marsh, from 12 a.m. February 1, 2024, through 11:59 p.m. February 14, 2024.
- The second closure will occur in the Barataria Basin, south of Empire and Venice, from 12 a.m. February 1, 2024, through 11:59 p.m. February 14, 2023.
- The third closure will occur in the Terrebonne Basin, between the Houma Navigational Canal and Bayou du Large, from 12 a.m. February 1, 2024, through 11:59 p.m. February 14, 2024.
- The fourth closure will occur in the Vermilion-Teche Basin, in an area from the Acadiana Navigational Channel and the western shore of Vermilion Bay, from 12 a.m. February 1, 2024, through 11:59 p.m. February 14, 2024.
- The fifth closure will occur in the Mermentau Basin, in the Mermentau River south of Catfish Locks, from 12 a.m. February 1, 2024, through 11:59 p.m. February 14, 2024.
- The sixth closure will occur in the Pontchartrain Basin, in Lake Maurepas, from 12 a.m. February 26, 2024, through 11:59 p.m. March 6, 2024.
Closure Area Maps
Click each one to enlarge.
Pontchartrain Basin - Biloxi Marsh
Pontchartrain Basin - Lake Maurepas
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.
Since the Derelict Crab Trap Removal Program began, volunteers have helped remove more than 50,000 traps.