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Crab trapping stopped so volunteers can clean up abandoned traps

Abandoned crab traps affect environment
Crabs from The Boiling Pot in Rockport
Posted at 4:31 PM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 19:12:20-05

PORT ARANSAS, Texas — You know the Little Mermaid song “Under the Sea,” right? Well, what you might not be seeing from above the sea are abandoned crab traps.

That’s why Texas Parks and Wildlife closes crab trapping for 10 days to clean up abandoned crab traps.

Katie Swanson braved the cold morning weather in Port Aransas on Friday to prepare for crab trap season.

Swanson, the stewardship coordinator for Mission Aransas Reserve at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, is participating in their clean up because of her passion for the ocean.

“It’s something I’ve always been passionate about," Swanson said. "It’s something that I think is directly related to human use of our ocean and of our resources. We can’t really blame marine debris on anyone else but us.”

She said the abandoned crab traps can have a harmful affect on the ocean environment that includes damaging seagrass, shorelines and marsh habitats.

Katya Wowk, a senior scientist at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's Harte Research Institute said the abandoned traps can also affect fish in the area, like blue crabs and spotted sea trout. She said they’re affected by something called "ghost fishing."

“Nobody’s actually fishing after these species, but they get caught in the traps and then they end up dying and they’re unavailable then for our commercial and recreational fishers,” Wowk said.

Wowk said abandoned crab traps also have an economic impact to fisherman in the area because fish get stuck in the ghost traps, that fisherman could have caught and sold.

She said Texas Parks and Wildlife capture about 4,500 traps through their program, which costs roughly $138,000 to replace.

Savannah Martinez, the education specialist and volunteer coordinator at Mission Aransas Reserve at UTMSI, said she volunteers because she’s also passionate about cleaning up the ocean.

She said abandoned crab traps aren’t just something that could affect fish, but also sea reptiles.

“Occasionally we might find turtles entrapped in them and part of what we do over here, especially with having the ARK, is we rescue sea turtles, so they pose a threat,” Martinez said.

You can find out more information on how to volunteer here