Commission Agenda Item No. 10
Presenter: Dakus Geeslin

Texas Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program
March 22, 2018

I.      Executive Summary:  Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Coastal Fisheries staff will provide an update on the Texas Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program which includes a brief history, conservation milestones, and partnerships and volunteer groups that have led to the success of the program.

II.     Discussion:  The Texas Blue Crab fishery is viable and productive with commercial harvests of approximately two million pounds of crab worth nearly $3 million annually. Abandoned, lost, or derelict crab traps are a significant source of mortality for a variety of recreationally important fish (Redfish, Flounder, Sheepshead) and for select species of greatest conservation need such as the Texas Diamondback Terrapin. These lost traps also have negative impacts on habitat, create navigation hazards, and become a source of visual pollution. To help combat this problem, the Texas Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program was created in 2001 with the passing of Senate Bill 1410 during the 77th Texas Legislative session giving TPWD the authority to create a community-based program to systematically remove abandoned, lost, or derelict crab traps during a 10-day crabbing season closure.

In February 2002, TPWD facilitated the first ever Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program event in which over 8,070 crab traps were removed from Texas’ coastal waters by 543 volunteers using 223 vessels. Since that time, each February for more than fifteen years, volunteer partners and TPWD staff have spent time on the water searching the bays for abandoned crab traps. To date, 3,198 volunteers have removed nearly 34,000 crab traps using 1,080 vessels. The program has protected and conserved countless crabs, finfish, and marine reptiles that may have otherwise perished in a lost or abandoned trap. To facilitate trap removal efforts each year, TPWD and its partners provide twenty trap drop-off sites at locations in each major bay system along the coast.

Vital to the success and sustainability of the program, are the valued partnerships with the Coastal Conservation Association Texas, Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, Galveston Bay Foundation, San Antonio Bay Foundation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who have continued to provide support to the crab trap removal program. Numerous other organizations and companies have also volunteered their services throughout the years.