DMR targets derelict crab traps for removal

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - More than 140 volunteers are on the water this week collecting old crab traps. The Department of Marine Resources recruited the boaters to help remove the derelict traps, which are considered marine litter.

A picture perfect morning greeted volunteer Dave Caldarelli as he eased his 24 foot Bayliner out of the Pass Christian Harbor Thursday.

It didn't take long for him and his son, Monty, to spot the first derelict crab traps. A pair of old crab pots were stuck in the mud just west of the harbor. They tied a line to a cleat and use the boat to pull the traps loose.

"They're full of barnacles. Full of seaweed. Dead crabs. And you can tell they have not been maintained at all," said Dave Caldarelli.

The old traps are more than unsightly.  They're a threat to marine life, including certain endangered turtles.

"A hazard to navigation out in the open water too," said Caldarelli, "They're like a land mine. Can get caught in the prop or something like that."

"Looks like two more over there in line too," shouted his son, Monty.

In the Bay of St. Louis, there are more traps targeted for removal. Monty hoists them aboard, while his dad takes the required notes.

There are plenty of abandoned traps to keep more than 100 volunteers busy this week.

"But it's nothing like it was after Katrina," said Traci Floyd, who directs the shrimp and crab bureau for the DMR. "In the years following Katrina we picked up, in one week, over 11,000 traps. And in the years 2007 and 2008, some 12,000 traps. So, it's nothing like it was. There are a few still out there."

There are now a few less traps, thanks to the efforts of Dave and Monty Caldarelli.

Muddy traps are towed through the water to remove some of the mess, then lifted aboard the Bayliner. The final count for the Caldarelli team:  Eight traps in just over two hours.

"It has been successful. Far more than I expected," said a happy Dave Caldarelli.

The old crab traps volunteers are collecting this week will be turned over to the DMR on Saturday for recycling.

The program has been around for ten years now and since then, hundreds of volunteers have helped the DMR remove and recycle thousands of derelict crab traps from Mississippi waters.

The derelict crab trap program is being funded by grants from NOAA and the Fish America Foundation.

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