Galveston County Daily News
Volunteers scour coast for abandoned crab traps
Posted: Saturday, March 7, 2015 12:55 am
By ERIN HEFFERNAN
GALVESTON — It’s become like a ritual. Every late February and early March teams of volunteers scour the Texas Coast for abandoned crab traps.
Left unchecked, the wire contraptions become a death trap for wildlife and an eyesore in Texas waterways.
Lost traps can fish continuously for months, killing hundreds of crabs, flounder and other animals.
Texas was overwhelmed with the problem, until the 76th Legislature created a volunteer program in 2002 to clean up traps.
The Texas Park and Wildlife Department now designates 10 days a year when crab traps are considered litter and volunteers at about 20 sites across the coast go on the hunt for lost, abandoned or forgotten traps.
This year, from Feb. 21 to March 2, hundreds of volunteers aided in the effort dropping off traps at TPWD pickup zones — including nearby efforts in both Galveston and Christmas Bay.
On a morning thick with fog this week, conservationist Jim Olive spent about four and a half hours with about a dozen volunteers in Christmas Bay on the hunt for the traps.
Olive has been participating in the crab trap retrieval program since 2002, he said.
Olive, who co-founded the Christmas Bay Foundation aimed at protecting the area, said that in the program’s first year volunteers brought back truckloads of abandoned crab traps that had built up over years of neglect.
This year, the volunteers included Boy Scouts and members of the Brazoria County Search and Rescue team. They found only six traps that had been abandoned.
“That shows how much progress we’ve made coming and doing this year after year,” Olive said. “It makes a difference and we went from almost being able to fill a dumpster to just six.”
TPWD provided the volunteers with gloves, tarps and water and picked up the traps at the end of the search.
Olive said this year’s collection was one of the first events in an effort to re-energize the Christmas Bay Foundation — which was started in 1999 and fought oil tankers and waste dumping from moving into the Christmas Bay.
“Christmas Bay was always an attraction to me and that’s why I’m out working for it,” Olive said. “It’s a manageable bay, not a big monster Bay. I’ve fished it for more than 25 years, and I don’t want to see it ruined.”
The organization was largely put on hold after Hurricane Ike, but now Olive said the volunteers are looking to find the next generation of conservationists to protect Christmas Bay, located just over the Galveston County line in Brazoria County.
“We hope to be out doing events like this every year,” Olive said. “You can see the difference.”