Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Watch volunteers help remove abandoned crab traps

Peter Clark, executive director of Tampa Bay Watch, left, identifies an abandoned crab trap as a group surveys Cochroach Bay. Tampa Bay Watch has rounded up at least 660 derelict traps.

Special to the Times

Peter Clark, executive director of Tampa Bay Watch, left, identifies an abandoned crab trap as a group surveys Cochroach Bay. Tampa Bay Watch has rounded up at least 660 derelict traps.

RUSKIN — Dressed in layers to ward off the cold, three dozen volunteers boarded two skiffs and a dozen airboats.

Their targets: derelict crab traps that are harming marine life in Coackroach Bay. The volunteers from Tampa Bay Watch were hunting for crab traps that lack at least three of the four required items — a buoy, a line, a current trap tag and a current commercial saltwater products license.

Crabbers lose their traps in severe weather, sometimes forget about them or leave them in the water simply because they have no place to store them, said Serra Herndon, a Tampa Bay Watch environmental scientist.

The neglected traps become danger for dolphins, turtles and even boats. Tampa Bay Watch estimates that there are thousands of abandoned crab traps that have been accumulating in local waters for decades.

Tampa Bay Watch's Crab Trap Removal Program is the first organized effort in Florida. The group has done aerial surveys at least two or three times a year since 2004 to identify abandoned traps and organize cleanups. The main objective is to get them out of the water to reduce the chances of marine life getting caught and or boaters hitting them at low tide.

On one Saturday in late January, they got 80 traps out of Cockroach Bay. Other areas where significant numbers of traps were found include waters north of the Courtney Campbell Causeway (83 last February) and the Alafia River (313 since 2004.) To date, the group has rounded up at least 660 derelict traps.

But picking up old traps isn't as easy as having a boat and good intentions. Only state wildlife officers and designated groups such as Tampa Bay Watch are permitted to remove them. Compounding the issue is the blue crab season, which runs year-round.

A proposal to close the blue crab season in six regions of the state is pending before state officials. A designated off-season of up to 10 days each would make it easier to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned traps, proponents of the closed season say.

What does it take to orchestrate an crab-trap cleanup?

"A lot of planning," said Peter Clark, executive director of Tampa Bay Watch. "It's a cyclic event. Tides are important as well as staff time, volunteers and getting permits."

With help from the state fish and wildlife commission, the Florida Airboaters Association, county government and the community, it usually takes 12 to 18 months of planning and at least $25,000 to run a cleanup.

"Because of budget cuts, this year we have no support, we're doing it on our own," Clark said. "My hopes are that we can get our water quality clean enough to support healthy wildlife and habitat — enough to see the scallops come back and to see trout and redfish fisheries."

Tampa Bay Watch volunteers help remove abandoned crab traps 03/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 5, 2009 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Photo of the Day for September 25, 2017 - Tufted Titmouse

    Human Interest

    Today's Photo of the Day comes from Christopher Woods of Palm Harbor, FL. He calls it "Tufted Titmouse."

  2. Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel, prolific Tampa Bay philanthropists, are putting up $200 million to create and run a new medical school under Nova Southeastern University. Here is a rendering of the proposed campus [Courtesy of Southestern Noval University}
  3. Two new condo projects for same street in downtown St. Pete

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — It lacks the panache and name recognition of Beach Drive, but 4th Avenue N in downtown St. Petersburg is becoming a condo row in its own right.

    Bezu, a condo project planned at 100 4th Ave. N in downtown St. Petersburg, will have 24 units including a three-level penthouse with infinity pool.
[Courtesy of Clear ph Design]
  4. HomeTeam 25: Football rankings for Tampa Bay

    Footballpreps

    1. Armwood (2-0)

    Up next: at Blake (Thursday)

    Armwood High School quarterback Devin Black (7) hands the ball off to running back Larry Anderson (13) during the Spring Football Jamboree in Seffner, Fla. on Thursday, May 18, 2017.
  5. 2018 Sunshine Music Festival lineup: Tedeschi Trucks Band, Phish's Mike Gordon, more

    Blogs

    Tedeschi Trucks Band is injecting a little extra jam into next year's Sunshine Music Festival.

    Tedeschi Trucks Band