Derelict Trap Retrieval and Debris Removal Programs
Lost and abandoned spiny lobster, stone crab and blue crab traps are a concern because they may spark user conflicts, "ghost fish" (continue to trap marine organisms), visually pollute, damage sensitive habitats, and 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 may be illegally abandoned by their owners.
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 and the Derelict Trap and Trap Debris Removal Program.
Spiny Lobster, Stone Crab and Blue Crab Trap Retrieval Program
This program 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. An 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 recycled, or destroyed and disposed of. A retrieval fee of $10 per trap is assessed to the trap owner for each trap retrieved. These fees are dedicated to the operation of the trap retrieval program.
The trap retrieval program is also funded by commercial saltwater license revenue. 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.
Derelict Trap and Trap Debris Removal Program Volunteer Opportunities
This program provides a mechanism to authorize volunteer groups to collect derelict traps and trap debris during open or closed seasons. Volunteer groups may remove derelict traps and trap debris from state waters when they organize a cleanup event and obtain authorization from the FWC. These volunteer cleanup events may take place during the open or closed seasons, and must adhere to guidelines established in Rule 68B-55, Florida Administrative Code (FAC).
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.
Please note: The FWC does not organize or coordinate volunteer group trap cleanup events. If you are interested in participating in an organized derelict trap cleanup event, please contact the event organizer for information on how you may volunteer.