NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Over the course of the 30-day blue crab closure, volunteers, staff and members of the commercial fishing industry were out in full force, collecting more than 5,600 traps during the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' annual Derelict Crab Trap Rodeos.
The first volunteer day was March 4 at Sweetwater Marina in Delacroix. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation headed the event with volunteers from the general public, Coastal Conservation Association and personnel from Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and collected 1,542 traps. LPBF and LDWF personnel continued to work during the closure to collect an additional 1,970 and 310 traps respectively. This effort brought the total number of derelict crab traps removed from the Pontchartrain Basin to 3,822.
"In the Pontchartrain Basin, we had a threefold increase in the number of recovered derelict traps from last year due to outstanding collaboration with volunteers, St. Bernard Parish, LDWF, commercial fishermen, CCA, Sweetwater Marina, and Boat Stuf," said Dr. John Lopez with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. "We estimate that over 130,000 crabs per year were saved with these efforts."
The second volunteer day was held March 11 at Isle De Jean Charles Marina in Montegut. The event was headed by LDWF with volunteers from the general public and CCA. Four hundred and ninety-three traps were collected during the volunteer event, and LDWF personnel picked up an additional 88 traps during the closure period. The effort in the Terrebonne Basin saw a total of 581 traps removed.
Additional efforts were made by the department during the closure period to remove derelict traps throughout Louisiana's coast. Traps were removed from the Barataria Basin (213 traps), Calcasieu Basin (482 traps) and the Vermilion-Teche Basin (576 traps).
Jeff Marx, LDWF Crab and Shrimp Program Manager, emphasized the importance of the annual effort.
"The removal of these derelict crab traps not only benefits the blue crab population, but other marine species as well, by reducing the amount of mortality caused by ghost fishing," he said.
LDWF initiated the volunteer-based Derelict Crab Trap Removal Program in 2004 to address removal of derelict and abandoned crab traps. The program is funded in part by the sale of Louisiana commercial and recreational crab fishing licenses. Since the program's inception, volunteers have assisted in removing 33,040 traps. Removal of these traps is imperative since they increase ghost-fishing mortality of blue crabs and other species captured incidentally, interfere with other commercial fishing gear types, create navigational hazards and reduce visual appeal of the environment.