Saturday, July 7, 2007

Ghost Traps

A note about 'Ghost Traps' - this is the common term for lobster traps that have been lost at sea. The loss could be due to a storm or something as simple as having the marker buoy cut off by a careless boater. It is my personal belief that ghost traps do nothing but harm the environment. Any lobsters caught in a ghost trap are surely doomed to a slow and inhumane death by starvation. Plus the loose line hanging off the trap usually wraps itself around surrounding reef, which causes long-term damage to the ecosystem.

Please note that tampering with an active trap in any way is a serious crime in Florida. Go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass Go, and do not collect $200.

While I am not certain about the legality of doing so, if I happen across a ghost trap that is CLEARLY a ghost trap on the bottom, I take a few steps to minimize its impact on the environment.

First, I open the hatch and help any of the critters stuck inside to freedom. You will frequently find fish, crabs, and other species inside a trap if it's been there long enough.

Second, I remove the hatch from the trap and place it inside the trap as securely as possible. The hatch hinge is usually made of material - canvas, leather or something similar. A quick cut with a dive knife usually does the trick.

Third, I stuff any free-hanging line into the trap to keep it from banging around the reef. If feasible, I will then turn the trap upside down in a sandy spot so that nothing else can get in and the rope can't get out.

Make sure you're not damaging any coral as your doing all this stuff, by the way. It takes coral about a year to grow 1/4-Inch, but only a split second to kill it.

If the trap is connected by a running line to other traps, I do NOT cut this line. This gives the proper owner of the trap the opportunity to retrieve the entire string of traps in one shot if he/she has properly marked the group on a GPS and comes back for them in the future. Each of these traps represents a considerable expense to the commercial fisherman and thus, destroying the traps beyond repair is generally just a nasty thing to do - especially if there are other options available to you as detailed above.

If there are any commercial lobstermen reading this, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this issue. While we don't come across ghost trips every week, we do certainly find them from time to time. Write me at:

As always, thanks for reading.

All the best,


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