TPWD News Release — Jan. 18, 2005
And volunteers are needed to assist in a coast-wide effort to remove the many thousands of wire mesh cages used to catch crabs that have been lost or abandoned since last year’s cleanup.
State game wardens pick up more than 2,500 traps annually, yet there are many more still in the water to foul shrimpers’ nets, snag fishermen’s lines and create an unsightly view of Texas shores. During the past efforts, Galveston Bay and San Antonio Bay accounted for almost 11,000 traps collected coastwide.
Prior to the 77th Legislature of Texas authorizing an abandoned crab trap removal program, only the trap’s owner or a TPWD game warden could legally remove a crab trap. To address this problem annually, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission voted in 2003 to close crabbing with traps in Texas waters for 10 days beginning on the third Friday of February each year, which this year will be from Feb. 18-27, to remove abandoned crab traps. On the first day of the closure, any crab trap left in the water will be defined as litter and can be removed by anyone. All traps picked up as litter must be disposed of properly and cannot be reused.
“Ghost fishing of these derelict traps is a real problem. We have documented 26 species of marine organisms found in these traps – many commercially or recreationally important. To illustrate this problem, last year a volunteer working in Corpus Christi Bay found nine sheepshead, seven toadfish, six gray snapper, four black drum and three spadefish in a single abandoned trap. These traps can also cause a host of problems from tangling shrimp trawls and propellers to creating simple marine debris,” explained Art Morris, TPWD trap cleanup coordinator. “Not to mention the deleterious smothering effects these traps have on sensitive habitats, like seagrasses.”
New this year, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is closing their waters in Sabine Lake to coincide with the Texas closure. This will allow both states to cleanup the entire system at the same time.
TPWD will be facilitating volunteer trap removal efforts on Saturday, Feb. 19 at several locations coast-wide, weather permitting. In case of inclement weather, the event will be postponed until the next available weekend day, but can not occur after Feb.27. Last year, 3,571 traps were removed by 311 volunteers with the help of more than 50 sponsors.
“This program has been recognized by the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program and is currently nominated for a Texas Environmental Excellence Award. Without the wonderful resource conservation ethics that the public has about protecting Texas’ bays and estuaries,” said Morris, “this program would not be nearly as successful. This year’s program is shaping up to be just as big as years past and we should have a great cleanup and a good time doing it. But we still need all the help we can get, especially in Galveston, Matagorda and San Antonio Bays.”
This year, the Cecil M. Hopper Museum, Coastal Conservation Association Texas, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program and Anheuser-Busch are providing major funding to ensure the success of the crab trap removal program. Additional assistance is coming from the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, Texas General Land Office, Gulf Coast Connections and many other businesses and organizations volunteering their services.
Morris noted that individuals who conduct cleanups on days other than TPWD-facilitated cleanup dates will have to make their own arrangements for trap disposal but can contact a local coordinator for assistance. For those who choose to work on their own, TPWD requests information about the number of traps that they collect.
To volunteer or for more information, contact your local TPWD Coastal Fisheries office or one of the regional coordinators Art Morris in Corpus Christi at (361) 825-3356 firstname.lastname@example.org or Bobby Miller in Dickinson at (281) 534-0110 email@example.com.
Contacts for each area are as follows: