FWC, partners remove nearly 5,000 pounds of marine debris from Citrus County coastal waters
Combine more than 30 people, great partnerships and 14 vessels, and that adds up to more nearly 5,000 pounds of debris removed from the coastal waters of Citrus County.
Volunteers met the morning of Feb. 15 to coordinate the removal of derelict crab traps around the Ozello, Crystal River and barge canal areas. After approximately 2.5 hours of slogging through mud and looking along the shoreline during low tide, 194 derelict crab traps were removed.
After removal, the traps were counted, crushed and carried to the county landfill. A grand total of 4,974 pounds of debris was removed.
The Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission estimates that 250,000 derelict blue crab traps are added to Gulf of Mexico waters each year. Once the traps have been separated from an identification float, they are difficult to see from the surface of the water. Oysters, algae and barnacles that grow on the traps can make that even worse. These derelict traps often become navigational hazards to boaters.
In addition to navigational hazards, these traps continue to trap marine life, which eventually die. This is commonly referred to as “ghost fishing.” Trap contents encountered during this removal effort included sheepshead, blue and stone crabs, shrimp, and crown conch. Volunteers removed these animals from the traps and returned them to the water before the traps were brought to shore.
To help address this widespread problem, the State of Florida allows Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)-approved trap removal efforts. Marine debris cleanup efforts remove navigational hazards from local waters and contribute to keeping aquatic preserves pristine for future generations.
All organized clean-up events must have prior approval. For more information, visit: MyFWC.com/marine and click on “Traps and Debris” near the bottom of the page.
The FWC’s law enforcement officers and Fish and Wildlife Research Institute biologists volunteered to assist in this effort hosted by the local aquatic preserve offices. Other partners included staff from the UF/IFAS Extension Office, Sea Grant, the Department of Environmental Protection’s St. Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve, the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve, Crystal River Preserve State Park, the Office of Greenways and Trails, as well as DEP law enforcement officers.