DMR targets removal of derelict crab traps

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The DMR and its volunteers are targeting derelict crab traps this week. This marks the 15th year the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources has removed the unclaimed traps from Mississippi waters. The derelict traps can quickly become eyesores and boating hazards.

It was cloudy and chilly as we left the boat ramp on Biloxi back bay. The team had already retrieved a couple of old crab traps. And it didn't take long, until we spotted another.

"Just rough. You can't hardly see it right now. There it is," said Captain Rudy.

The captain spots a float and Rick reaches out with the hook. This time it's just a float, with no crab trap attached. But plenty have been retrieved since the program began in 1999.

"To date, we've picked up over 18,000 traps in Mississippi. And we actually started the program in the Gulf of Mexico, which has spread to all of the gulf states," said the DMR's Bill Richardson, a fisheries scientist.

The second try was more successful. Not only does Rick snag an abandoned trap, but it also has lively blue crabs inside.

"They continue to fish as they get growth on them. It attracts things into the trap, and if that dies, something will go in and eat that and it just perpetuates itself," Richardson explained.

Crab fishermen don't usually abandon these traps because they cost money. The majority of derelict traps are the result of hurricanes which toss the metal cages wherever the wind and waves dictate.

"Since this program has been going on, the numbers have gone down every year, which means we're doing a good job," said Richardson.

Again, hurricanes and tropical storms are the main culprits for scattering these traps across Mississippi's marine waters. Bill Richardson says after Hurricane Katrina, they found several traps in the tops of pine trees.

"It wasn't like hunting Easter eggs. They were easy to find," he recalled.

Not so easy to find on this day, thanks in part to the derelict crab trap program that seems to be working.

Crab fishermen were required to remove their traps from the water in advance of this derelict crab trap clean-up. Any traps left in the water, are subject to being removed by the DMR or its volunteers during this three day project.

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