For decades, Coastal Wildlife Club (CWC) turtle patrollers on Manasota Key in southwest Florida have encountered crab traps washed onto nesting beaches. Some are in good condition with current permits and tags. Others are clearly trash. In neither case was it possible for patrollers to remove the traps from nesting habitat.
Touching or moving traps without authorization is a third-degree felony (Florida Administrative Code 68B-55).
Over the years we contacted local and state agencies for guidance regarding removal. No one provided specific information that would be helpful in addressing this problem. Traps remained on the beaches, often for years - obstructions to nesting sea turtles and to beach walkers
At the Florida Marine Turtle Permit Holder Meeting in January 2020, in a presentation on Florida’s Marine Debris Program, a permitting process was outlined authorizing legal removal of crab traps by groups such as ours.
CWC volunteers patrol about 14 miles of beach daily during turtle season. We are perfectly situated to document locations of traps and to remove them.
CWC applied for a permit for trap removal from April – October 2020. Upon approval, we established and trained our Crab Trap Removal Team, all of whom are also turtle patrollers.
Because traps wash in all year long, we quickly realized that a seasonal permit was not sufficient. We are permitted now to remove traps year-round from the beaches and waters of Charlotte and Sarasota counties. The project is in its fourth year.
We have done public outreach to increase awareness about the project, and we have partnered with other groups to facilitate in-water removal. We have developed relationships with individuals in the crab fishing community whom we contact for the pick-up of fishable traps.
To date, we have removed a total of 141 crab traps from local beaches: 32 traps in 2020, 71 traps in 2021, and 38 traps in 2022.
Crab Trap Removal Team: Jill Auman, Jo Ellen Blake-Wingate, Lori Newton, Will Howell, Carol & Gene McCoy, Robbie & Don Brooks, Doug Stone, Karen Gilbert, John Kesich, Pauline Logston, Helen Dumond, Judy Peck Demersman, Ted Johnston, Norma Jean Zvosek, Wilma Katz
Staff in Charlotte & Sarasota Counties, Ranger Melanie Luce at Stump Pass Beach State Park, Pamela Gruver, FWC, Division of Fisheries Managment and Karen Blackford, friend of CWC
Photo: Su Young
Clumps of traps are deposited on the beach during a storm and are often buried in sand. Sometimes only a corner of the trap is visible! The lines become entangled in trees and driftwood and require a lot of time and elbow grease to remove.
After a December storm, CWC volunteer Lori Newton is digging out traps with a smile.
Photo: Carol McCoy
A loggerhead crawls on the beach with a crab trap in the background. She did not nest. This is referred to as a "false crawl". Obstructions on beaches can cause entrapment and deter sea turtles from nesting. A sea turtle expends a lot of energy resources crawling on land.
Photo: Lori Newton
John Kesich examines a stone crab trap to determine if it is debris. If the trap is fishable, CWC contacts the owner of the trap for pickup.
Photo: Emily Rizzo
CWC volunteer Gene McCoy loads a heavy stone crab trap into a vehicle for transport to a secure disposal location. CWC partners with Charlotte and Sarasota counties for secure disposal locations.
Photo: Carol McCoy
CWC volunteers Kevin Mullaney & Steve Daniel remove a blue crab trap from sea turtle nesting habitat, a.k.a, the beach.
Photo: Wilma Katz
Traps are weighted down with cement and are heavy. Many times it takes two volunteers to safely lift and remove.
Robbie Brooks and Doug Stone remove a derelict stone crab trap from the beach.
Photo: Don Brooks
If you need used crayons, where do you go? It seemed natural to partner with teacher. Kathleen Skavronek from Deep Creek Elementary School. She has been providing us with used crayons from the school. This is a great lesson in reusing and recycling. Thank you, Kathleen and students. Kathleen is pictured in the photo holding the crayons, next to Carol McCoy, CWC volunteer.
Photo: Wilma Katz
CWC has fantastic volunteers. So many of them have a multitude of crafty talents. Many of them are artists that sew, paint, crochet, quilt, sculpt, make jewelry, woodwork, create beautiful eggs with traditional Pasanki and take fantastic photographs. All we had to do is ask and our volunteers made the new sea life crayons. Thank you to our "Crayon Crew" for making this project come to life.
These beauties are used in our outreach programs. They accompany coloring/ activity pages and are always well received.
A special thank you to the Walton Beach Turtle Patrol for telling us where they got the molds.
Coastal Wildlife Club participates in area festivals and events such as displays and talks at area libraries, Earth Day, Dearborn Street Safe Walk and other places by invitation. Below, please enjoy some artwork created by a scouting group that earned their Sea Turtle Badge that day.
Charlotte County Libraries "Under the Sea" Summer reading program event. CWC offered a table display of sea turtle information and distributed sea turtle tattoos to children and adults alike.
Seated at table: Carol Leonard and Deb Laposa
Photo: Karen Blackford
Troop 321 earned their Sea Turtle Badge after satisfying all of the requirements Part of which was listening to a presentation about sea turtles and creating posters on sea turtle threats. You can see their work below.
Photo: Gene McCoy
Presenting "Born to be Wild" to small children at Elsie Quirk Library
Photo: Carol Leonard
Don't Release Balloons. Artwork from Brownie Troop 351
Don't litter. Drawing by a member of Brownie Troop 351
Artwork from a member of Brownie Troop 351
Sea Turtle Threats. Drawing by member of Brownie Troop 351
Drawing by member of Brownie Troop 351