Lost and abandoned spiny lobster, stone crab and blue crab traps have been identified as a problem in Florida's marine environment by various stakeholder groups, including the commercial fishing industry. Once traps become lost or abandoned, they may spark user conflicts, "ghost fish" (continue to trap marine organisms until traps degrade enough to allow escape), visually pollute, may cause damage to sensitive habitats, and also become hazards to navigation.
Traps may remain in the water during a closed season for many reasons. They can move during storms, making them difficult to locate; they may be snagged by passing vessels and dragged to another area; or they are illegally abandoned by their owners for various reasons.
The FWC currently has two programs dedicated to removing lost and abandoned traps from state waters. The Spiny Lobster, Stone Crab and Blue Crab Trap Retrieval Program contracts commercial fishermen to remove fishable traps from state waters during closed seasons, and the Derelict Trap and Trap Debris Removal Program provides a mechanism to authorize volunteer groups to collect derelict traps and trap debris during open or closed seasons.
Tampering with traps, trap contents, lines or buoys that do not belong to you (even if the traps are derelict or in the water during a closed season), may result in a third degree felony conviction, fines of up to $5,000 and the permanent revocation of your fishing privileges.
Spiny Lobster, Stone Crab and Blue Crab Trap Retrieval Program
This program is authorized pursuant to section 379.2424, Florida Statutes (F.S.), and is operated by the FWC to target and remove spiny lobster, stone crab and blue crab traps that remain in the water during the closed season for each fishery. Fishery participant organizations are contracted to implement this program, and are selected through a competitive-bid process. The vendor with the lowest bid is selected, and payment is made based on the number of traps retrieved and the number of retrieval trips completed. A FWC observer is onboard for each retrieval trip and is responsible for verifying the number of traps retrieved, and to record license and location data from each trap retrieved. Traps that are recovered as part of this program are destroyed and disposed of. Pursuant to Section 379.368, F.S., a retrieval fee of $10 per trap is assessed to the trap owner for each trap retrieved as part of this program. These fees are dedicated to the operation of the trap retrieval program.
The trap retrieval program is funded by commercial saltwater license revenue and from retrieval fees collected. For each spiny lobster (crawfish), stone crab and blue crab endorsement (commercial license) issued, $25 of the endorsement fee is dedicated to funding trap retrieval efforts. As a benefit, each license holder is given a retrieval fee waiver for up to 5 traps for each endorsement type held. For example, if a fisher has both a stone crab endorsement and a crawfish endorsement, then they will receive a waiver for the first 10 traps retrieved each calendar year. If a fisher holds a stone crab endorsement, a crawfish endorsement, and a blue crab endorsement, then they will receive a waiver for the first 15 traps retrieved each calendar year. Commercial licenses cannot be renewed until all retrieval fees have been paid.
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