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Lobster Trap Debris in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary: Distribution, Abundance, Density, and Patterns of Accumulation.

Author(s): Uhrin, Amy V., Thomas Matthews and Cynthia Lewis.


Center Team: Beaufort

Publication Type: Journal Article

Journal Title: Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science

Date of Publication: 2014

Reference Information: 6(1): 20-32.

Keywords: CCFHR, NOAA Oceans, Marine debris, Fishing gear, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Abstract: The fishery for spiny lobster Panulirus argus in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is well chronicled, but little information is available on the prevalence of lost or abandoned lobster traps. In 2007, towed-diver surveys were used to identify and count pieces of trap debris and any other marine debris encountered. Trap debris density (debris incidences/ha) in historic trap-use zones and in representative benthic habitats was estimated. Trap debris was not proportionally distributed with fishing effort. Coral habitats had the greatest density of trap debris despite trap fishers’ reported avoidance of coral reefs while fishing. The accumulation of trap debris on coral emphasizes the role of wind in redistributing traps and trap debris in the sanctuary.We estimated that 85,548±23,387 (mean±SD) ghost traps and 1,056,127±124,919 nonfishing traps or remnants of traps were present in the study area. Given the large numbers of traps in the fishery and the lack of effective measures for managing and controlling the loss of gear, the generation of trap debris will likely continue in proportion to the number of traps deployed in the fishery. Focused removal of submerged trap debris from especially vulnerable habitats such as reefs and hardbottom, where trap debris density is high, would mitigate key habitat issues but would not address ghost fishing or the cost of lost gear.

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