The Christmas Bay Foundation encourages responsible recreational use of Texas waters and coastal resources, including fishing, crabbing, and boating. Unfortunately, some users neglect to leave areas “as they found them,” not only with trash but with abandoned methods of long-term fishing, such as mesh crab traps and trotlines. These are hazards to marine life as well as recreational users of the bay and can remain for months or years – doing continued damage out of sight and out of mind. The unattended fishing by crab traps is often referred to as “ghost fishing.” Abandoned traps can also damage sensitive habitats, injuring wade fishers, and damaging boats, motors, and tackle.
The Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program (ACTRP) was created by Senate Bill 1410 during the 77th (2001) Legislative session. This bill granted the TPWD Commission authority to create a ten-day crab trap closure that begins the third Friday of each February. Crab traps left in the water during this time are considered litter and may be disposed of appropriately. Before this law, only law enforcement officials could legally remove abandoned crab traps from Texas’ marine waters. Since 2002, volunteers have removed over 40,000 abandoned traps from Texas waters. Click here to view a short YOUTUBE clip.
Laws allow you to remove crab traps for the ten-day period starting on the third Friday in February. The closure will be from February 17 2023 to February 26, 2023, with our volunteer event taking place on February 18, 2023.
The CBF organized the first mesh crab trap removal program in Christmas Bay in February 2002. Biologists estimated that over 11,000 organisms were saved just during the week of the cleanup in 2002. Twenty-one species of organisms, many commercially or recreationally important, were observed in these traps with blue crab and stone crab representing 76% of the organisms observed.
The CBF secured a dumpster from TP&WD, volunteers wading, kayaking & Jon boats were used to bring the traps back to the Brazoria County boat ramp at CB. The dumpster was nearly filled to capacity with the traps. Crab trap removal continued for the next six years. When you consider how the numbers of fish and crabs saved grow with each trap that is removed and is no longer a menace into the future, the importance of this work to the health of the ecosystem cannot be overstated.
In 2015, CBF relaunched the Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program, in partnership with the TP&WD and increased the effectiveness of the project by securing the Brazoria County Search & Rescue team to provide airboats & pilots to take volunteers recruited by CBF on a search of Christmas Bay for the traps. The crab trap removal program was featured on the front page of the Galveston County Daily Newspaper.
Volunteer to help at our next abandoned crab trap removal. It is a great way to be out on the water while making a real, physical impact in providing a valuable service to the marine life and habitat of Christmas Bay.