Crab pots work but when abandoned they are a problem.

The wiry cubes used to haul in plump blue crabs headed for boiling pots across south Louisiana are an example of old-school efficiency – except when they’re abandoned. The large number of abandoned or derelict crab traps pose problems for boaters and lure in crustaceans or other marine life who can’t claw their way back to freedom. To peel away at the problem, the state is organizing a “rodeo” on Feb. 4 where volunteers will lasso abandoned traps to help clear the waterways, to be held in the Terrebonne Basin, based at the Isle de Jean Charles Marina. Volunteers are being encouraged to sign up at: Lunch will be provided by the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana.

These post are a problem and one that is bigger than thought.

It’s not an insignificant problem: Louisiana harvests more blue crabs than any other state, and its citizens have just about as many recipes for them, from fried soft-shells to crab meat au gratin and, of course, just boiled in the backyard on a summer weekend. While recreational crabbers in Louisiana tend to think of summer as the best time to set out their nets, crabbing occurs year-round, with an average catch of around 44 million pounds, according to the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. In addition to the rodeo, the state carries out periodic closures of crabbing areas to allow abandoned crab traps to be retrieved. Since the state began its trap removal program in 2004, more than 51,000 derelict traps have been collected. A 2020 study estimated four times that many abandoned traps may remain.

When abandoned they still catch crabs and fish that die.

The same study estimated 26 crabs and eight fish per trap are killed each year through “ghost fishing,” or being caught in abandoned traps and left to die. This year’s closure dates and locations can be found at: “These traps lead to ghost-fishing mortality of blue crabs and other species, which can be captured incidentally, interfere with other commercial fishing gear types and degrade the beauty of our natural environment,” a Wildlife and Fisheries statement said. Peyton Cagle, the department’s crustacean program manager, added that “derelict or abandoned traps can also cause navigational hazards or get caught in boat propellers.” Anglers who’ve run across abandoned traps in their boats or lost fishing tackle on them understand those concerns.

Only collecting 10% of the pots results in a savings.

The study on abandoned traps, published by the journal Estuaries and Coasts, found that “a Gulf-wide removal program targeting 10% of derelict traps over the course of 5 years would lead to a combined benefit of more than 691,000 kg of crabs and fish prevented from mortality in ghost fishing traps.” Cagle said the department carries out its own research, but numbers are difficult to estimate. “We collect data annually during our crab trap cleanups, so we have trap location and bycatch data,” he said by email. “We have also surveyed the industry to get trap use/loss data, but survey return percentage is only 20-25%. While we can use all of these to develop estimates, there is no true determination on the number of traps in use, which limits a true value calculation.”

When I was on ships in Maine our problem was lobster pots.

Abandoned crab pots are a problem
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