It’s springtime in Louisiana and our attention naturally turns towards the water. It’s time to pull out our boats, inspect our trailers, check the tackle boxes and give the local fishing reports a little more attention than we did a couple months ago. It’s in our nature to migrate towards the water, after all a large portion of Louisiana’s heritage is rooted in our waterways. It is a precious resource that we don’t take lightly.
Memorial Day is the kick-off for boating season and it would be logical for me to discuss boating safety, popular fishing holes and traditional water activities. However, I am not. Instead, I want to bring to your attention another water related activity that everyone can participate in that helps clean up our waters-the Derelict Crab Trap Program.
In 2001, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission proposed that the Gulf States implement a program to remove abandoned, damaged and lost traps from their waters. The proposal stemmed from a problem that plague all Gulf States that have a crab fishery. LDWF took the challenge. In 2003, we embarked on a plan to clear southern Louisiana waters from abandoned and damaged crab traps, and the Derelict Crab Trap Program was born.
Nine years later, the program is still going strong, which under normal conditions would be a good thing. But, in this case it is bittersweet, as we see a successful program produce depressing results. The continuous supply of derelict traps tells us there is more cleaning to be done in our waterways.
Thousands of derelict crab traps are retrieved every year by shrimpers, recreational anglers and boaters. Derelict traps are not left intentionally, at least not the majority of the traps found. Nor is it the fault of only fishermen, but a shared accountability of Mother Nature and man. Louisiana’s geographical position puts us in the path of two of Mother Nature’s deadly and costly natural disasters-hurricanes and floods. These annual weather conditions add to the underwater clutter with every passing occurrence.
Although it is a bittersweet situation, I choose to view the glass half full rather than half empty. We have removed more than 22,000 traps since the program began. The program continues with renewed interest and new goals for the future. Volunteers continue to show support offering boats, fuel, and helping hands. They are an essential element of the program’s success and we are grateful for their continued help.
The opening story for this spring issue is about the Derelict Crab Trap Program. In it, you will learn more about the history, problems and future plans for the program. The trap retrieval process happens once a year, usually in February or March. This year’s cleanup took place between February 25 and March 5, with more than 2,700 traps retrieved. We will continue with the program as long as there is a need and I encourage you to join us in 2013 to help keep one of our most valuable resources clean.
Sec. Robert Barham
La. Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries