All recreational and commercial blue crab traps must be removed from northwest Florida waters before January 5, the first day of a 10-day trap closure.

Blue crab traps may not be in Florida state waters from the Florida/Alabama state line through the Franklin/Wakulla county line from January 5 through January 14. Florida state waters are all waters inside of nine miles from shore in the Gulf of Mexico including Intracoastal Waterways.

The closure is one of three regional, 10-day blue crab trap closures that will occur in coastal waters in 2017. There are six regional closures total: three in even-numbered years on the east coast and three in odd-numbered years on the west coast.

Later this year the coastal waters from Broward through Pasco counties will close to traps July 10-19, and waters from Hernando through Wakulla counties, including all waters of the Ochlockonee River and Ochlockonee Bay, will close to traps July 20-29.

These closures will give groups authorized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) the opportunity to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from the water.

Closures may be reduced in duration if it is determined that the number of lost and abandoned traps in the region will take less time to remove.

Until trap season reopens, blue crabs may be harvested with other gear, such as dip nets and fold-up traps. Blue crab harvesters may also use standard blue crab traps during the closure if the traps are attached to a dock or other private property.

Lost and abandoned blue crab traps are a problem in the blue crab fishery because they can continue to trap crabs and fish when left in the water. They can also be unsightly in the marine environment, damage sensitive habitats and pose navigational hazards to boaters on the water.

The trap retrieval program is funded by commercial saltwater license revenue and from retrieval fees collected. For each spiny lobster (crawfish), stone crab and blue crab endorsement (commercial license) issued, $25 of the endorsement fee is dedicated to funding trap retrieval efforts.

Fishery participant organizations are contracted to implement this program, and are selected through a competitive-bid process. The vendor with the lowest bid is selected, and payment is made based on the number of traps retrieved and the number of retrieval trips completed.

For more information regarding the FWC’s trap-retrieval program, blue crab trap closure dates, regulations and cleanup events, go to myfwc.com/fishing (click on “saltwater fishing,” then “trap retrieval”). For additional information, contact the FWC’s trap-retrieval coordinator, Pamela Gruver, at (850) 487-0554.

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