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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.


2021 Crab Trap Closures

LDWF has canceled the 2021 Derelict Crab Trap Rodeo volunteer cleanup event due to concerns related to COVID-19. However, the scheduled closures will remain in place; LDWF staff and/or contractors will still collect derelict traps from the defined closure areas.  

The Commission proposed four crab trap closures along the Louisiana coast in 2021 for derelict crab trap removal:

  1. Pontchartrain Basin: in an area west of Delacroix to the Mississippi River, from 12 am, Monday, February 1, 2021, through 11:59 pm, Sunday, February 14, 2021
  2. Terrebonne Basin: in an area west of Bayou Lafourche, from 12 am, Monday, February 1, 2021, through 11:59 pm, Sunday, February 14, 2021
  3. Vermilion Basin: in an area in East Cote Blanche Bay, from 12 am, Monday, February 1, 2021, through 11:59 pm, Sunday, February 14, 2021
  4. Pontchartrain Basin: in an area east of Delacroix to the MRGO, from 12 am, Monday, February 22, 2021, through 11:59 pm, Sunday, March 7, 2021.

Closure Area Maps

Click each one to enlarge.

Statewide Map
Pontchartrain Basin 1
Pontchartrain Basin 1
Terrebonne Basin
Terrebonne Basin
Vermilion Basin
Vermilion Basin
Pontchartrain Basin 2
Pontchartrain Basin 2

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 45,000 traps.

Year Area(s) Traps Boat Days
2004 2 6,894 90+
2005 4 4,623 50+
2006 1 2,935 31+
2007 2 1,498 15
2008 1 1,234 3
2009 1 788 N/A
2010 1 477 N/A
2011 1 1,100 N/A
2012 2 2,798 66
2013 2 969 32
2014 1 1,051 24
2015 1 422 9
2016 3 2,580 50+
2017 6 5,674 68
2018 5 4,061 68
2019  5 4,041 67
2020 6 4,188 77
Total  39 45,333  650+