If you listened to the Radio WaterLine show last Saturday (7 to 9 a.m., KIX Country 92.9 FM), you heard me and Robert talking about a commercial fishing issue that FWC has been taking a look at: Bycatch of diamondback terrapins in blue crab traps.
Terrapins are turtles that live in brackish water. They’re fairly small animals, with adult females around 10 inches long and males about 6 inches. They share habitat with the crabs and can be found on grass flats, oyster bars and mangrove creeks.
Chances are you’ve probably never seen one. A big part of the reason why is that we’ve been fishing blue crabs pretty aggressively in Charlotte Harbor for many years, and that’s put a significant crimp in their numbers. The turtles are attracted to the same sort of food as the crabs, so they climb right into the traps. But many are unable to find their way out, and being air-breathers, they end up drowning in the traps.
Now, as we talked about on the show, where you land on this issue is going to be determined on which you value more: Turtles living in the wild, or jumbo blue crabs on your plate. The best tool found to keep terrapins out of the traps is a plate that fits over part of the entrance, keeping the turtles from getting in. This so-called bycatch-reduction device (BRD) has the unfortunate side effect of keeping some of the biggest crabs out as well.
The FWC is going to be collecting commentary on this issue for a while. If you’d like to get some education about terrapins, how the BRDs work, and what researchers have discovered about them in other fisheries, here are some links that will be very helpful:
FWC’s page about terrapin biology: http://bit.ly/39E5kzj
A breakdown of BRD function from the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences: https://bit.ly/33BvXqD
A study by the South Carolina DNR on how BRDs affect crab catches: http://bit.ly/2Fc7akU
A 9-minute video by the FWC about using BRDs in Florida: http://bit.ly/3d4Tp4i
Once you’ve been properly educated, make your voice count at http://bit.ly/39E66fH. This is the portal for commentary on a number of saltwater issue the the FWC is reviewing, so feel free to sound off on any of them. Just remember — you’re not entitled to your opinion. You’re entitled to your EDUCATED opinion. That’s what has value. See you on the radio.
Contact Capt. Josh Olive at 941-276-9657 or Publisher@WaterLineWeekly.com.