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Louisiana Sea Grant to Help Address Derelict Crab Trap Issue

Crab Trap clean-upLouisiana Sea Grant (LSG) personnel have received a $40,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help address the state’s derelict crab trap issue. Principal investigators on the project are Julie Lively, state-wide fisheries specialist for LSG and the LSU AgCenter, and Melissa Daigle, LSG resiliency specialist.

Louisiana leads the nation in the number of licensed commercial blue crab fishermen, with more than 2,500 license holders who have no limit on the number of traps they can operate. Some commercial crabbers run upwards of 800 to 2,000 traps each. Additionally, there are more than 6,600 licensed recreational crab fishermen who can operate 10 traps each. Between commercial and recreational crabbers, there can be more than 66,000 traps in the water.

On average, 130 traps per crabber are lost each year due to storms, accidents and intentional abandonment. The result is in an estimated 11 million crabs lost to ghost fishing by derelict traps. Other fish, such as red drum, black drum and summer flounder also can get stuck in the traps.

Derelict traps also are an underwater hazard for boaters and other commercial fishermen.

The project, titled “Exploring Alternatives to the Derelict Crab Trap Problem: Combining Fishermen and Management Perspectives with Policy Considerations,” anticipated to begin in May and run for two years, is broken into four phases.

    1. Examine the options for prevention and removal of derelict traps through a variety of meetings with crabbers across the Louisiana coast. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and NOAA will also participate in those meetings.
    2. Based on the information gathered during those meetings, determine the preferred options for prevention and removal of derelict traps by the fishing industry and management agencies, such as LDWF.
    3. Assess the legality and feasibility of legislative changes to enable the preferred removal options. Due to the management structure of Louisiana’s fisheries, some options may require legislative change, while others may require implementation through the state’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.
    4. The best solution for derelict crab traps is to prevent the problem before it happens.  Phase four will include a variety of extension activities with the goal of reducing derelict traps through education, outreach and recommended policy changes.

Louisiana Sea Grant is one of only eight Sea Grant programs in the nation to receive funds to research, prevent and remove marine debris in U.S. waters. Total funding for the initiative – available through the National Sea Grant Program in collaboration with NOAA’s Marine Debris Program – was $350,000.