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Derelict ghost traps are harming Florida sea life

FWC permits certain groups to remove derelict ghost traps to keep sea creatures safe.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Derelict ghost traps are putting sea creatures in danger.

These are fishing traps for lobsters and crab that are abandoned. A dolphin in Clearwater was trapped and injured in a crab trap on Wednesday. 

The President of Ocean Aid 360 said there are several reasons why traps become abandoned.

"Basically by storm action or a passing boat. That’s cut off the buoy or has caused the trap to move," Captain Neill Holland explained.

Ocean Aid 360 started removing derelict boat traps in the Tampa Bay area in 2018 with permits and permission from FWC.

Any organization or group needs the proper permit and permission because officials want to make sure the trap being removed is abandoned. There are fishermen that have traps and that is how they feed their families. Officials and Ocean Aid 360 are very careful to make sure they are not removing operational traps.

One way to ensure that is by going out in the ocean during seasonal closures.

Holland said for spiny lobsters and stone crab, the closure lasts four months out of the year. For blue crab, there is a closure every other year for 10 days.

Removing these traps is so important because they can be harmful to sea life when they are abandoned.

Holland said derelict traps still work. That trap can catch fish for about five years. This is dangerous because fish will get trapped in it and die. That could attract other fish inside. 

"Acts as a bait for more marine life to come in right behind," Holland explained.

Ocean Aid 360 has removed 112,000 pounds of debris and 2,000 traps since it began in 2018

To help get these traps out of the water, FWC encourages people to apply to get involved. Holland said the process isn't difficult and it is one that can really help our environment.

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