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derelict crab traps

All types of marine debris, including trash, derelict crab traps, and monofilament fishing line are a persistent problem in the waters of Tampa Bay. Blue crab traps become derelict when owners may no longer be able to locate their traps if the float becomes separated from the trap, or if the trap itself moves (by storm events or human activities). Once the float and/or trap line have been lost, crab traps are difficult to see from the water’s surface. Unfortunately, there is no realistic way to keep blue crab traps from becoming derelict. The best solution is to conduct semi-annual cleanups of an area to prevent the traps from becoming hazardous to the environment.

If derelict traps are found, do NOT remove them. Instead, record the location of the trap and any other pertinent information on a GPS or chart, and then contact us to report your findings.

image: staff removing derelict crab trap

What is a Derelict Crab Trap?

  • Any trap found in the water during closed season for that species.
  • Any trap that is not fishable (i.e.; lacks six intact sides).
  • Any fishable trap during open season that lacks at least three of the following: buoy, line, current trap tag, and/or current commercial saltwater products license.

Tampa Bay Watch conducts derelict crab trap removals two times throughout the year: in the winter months to coincide with the extreme low tides for easiest identification traps, and during the semi-annual closure of the blue crab fishery that happens in July of odd-numbered years.

The two yearly events are coordinated with multiple organizations to ensure maximum safety and results. We authorize our cleanup activities with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), and we coordinate with the Florida Airboat Association for the use of airboats during the winter events which allow access to the shallow areas where conventional boats would be unable to enter. At each event, derelict traps are identified, recorded, and brought back to the boat ramp where they are destroyed and disposed of. All of the data that is collected is then submitted to FWC for entry into their statewide database.

This project provides many lasting benefits to the ecosystem by...

  • Helping to reduce unnecessary bycatch of marine organisms;
  • Removing marine debris from the environment;
  • Eliminating a safety hazard to boaters;
  • Expanding public education on the problems associated with marine debris;
  • Providing a community-based opportunity to enhance Tampa Bay

Did you know...

Since the program began in 2004, we have removed thousands of derelict crab traps from the waters of Tampa Bay!

Thank you to the sponsors who support our derelict crab trap removal events.

Email Serra Herndon with questions about this program:


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