The harvest of blue crabs from traps will not be allowed from Jan. 5 through Jan. 14 in all waters of Franklin County west to the Florida-Alabama border, except all waters of the Ochlockonee River and Ochlockonee Bay. This closure will give authorized groups the opportunity to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from the coastal and inland waters in the area.
All commercial and recreational blue crab traps within three nautical miles from shore and in the inland waters of Franklin County west to the Florida-Alabama border, except all waters of the Ochlockonee River and Ochlockonee Bay, must be removed before the start of the 10-day closed period.
The harvest of blue crabs by other gear, such as dip nets and fold-up traps, will still be permitted during the 10-day closure. Blue crab harvesters may also use standard blue crab traps if the traps are attached to private property.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has cited lost and abandoned blue crab traps to be a problem in the blue crab fishery because they can still trap crabs and fish when they are not maintained. They can also be unsightly in the marine environment, damage sensitive habitats and pose navigational hazards to boaters on the water.
Lost and abandoned traps cannot easily be distinguished from legal traps, so they often remain in the water indefinitely. The 10-day closure will enable FWC-authorized groups to collect lost and abandoned blue crab traps that remain in the water during the closed period.
The FWC recently approved three regional 10-day blue crab trap closures to take place in designated areas in Florida in odd-numbered years and three other closures in even-numbered years, effective Jan. 26, 2011. For more information regarding the FWC’s trap-retrieval program, blue crab trap closure dates, regulations, and how you can participate in cleanup events, go to MyFWC.com/Rules (click on “Fishing – Saltwater”). You can also contact the FWC’s trap-retrieval coordinator, Kyle Miller, at 850-487-0554.