2023 Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program Results

977 Traps Removed from Local Bays

As part of TPWD’s annual Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program, volunteers and agencies scoured Aransas, San Antonio, and Matagorda Bay systems in a coordinated effort to locate and remove derelict crab traps. In total, 977 traps were removed by 48 boats and 182 people during the 10-day closure period from February 17-26,  2023.  In 2022, 2021, and 2020, 1047, 1203, and 1632 traps were removed, respectively.

If left in the environment the traps are unsightly litter and navigation hazards. Also, derelict traps can continue to ‘ghost fish’, entrapping and killing crabs, fish, and turtles. Allan Berger coordinated the cleanup effort for San Antonio Bay and made the following observations regarding this year’s program:

  • Most of the traps removed were at the shoreline, or on shore, the result of high winds and tides during storm events.
  • Winter Storm Uri in 2021 killed mangroves, continuing to expose older traps on the shoreline.
  • The number of traps removed from open water appears down from previous years due to diligent efforts by commercial crabbers to pick up their traps prior to the closure period. An exception is the Guadalupe River Delta area which continues to experience high trap dereliction.
  • The weather was generally cooperative in 2023, but the effort continues to be limited by the availability of boats to search remote and shallow areas of the Bay.
  • An analysis of the location, content, and ownership data collected for each trap is planned. This information will inform efforts to reduce trap dereliction in the future and will be available at the San Antonio Bay website (SABayPartnership.org) in April.

Volunteer activities were coordinated by the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, the San Antonio Bay Partnership, and the Matagorda Bay Foundation. Boats and volunteers came from numerous local organizations: Coastal Conservation Association  chapters, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, Lavaca-Navidad River Authority,  Guadalupe-Blanco R Trust, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Mid-Coast Texas Master Naturalist chapter, Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, University of Texas Marine Science Institute, International Crane Foundation, Dallas Zoo, Texas SeaGrant, and concerned citizens.

Crab Trap Navy Rotc ( )
Calhoun High School Naval ROTC students processing traps for metal recycling.


Special thanks to the Calhoun High School Naval ROTC students for manning the TPWD dock in Port O’Connor to unload boats and process the cleaner traps for metal recycling and to the Dallas Zoo volunteers who processed traps from the Seadrift Marina.

The cleanup efforts for 2021, 2022 and 2023 were funded by a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal grant obtained by the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program and supplemented by local sponsors Guadalupe Blanco River Authority and the San Antonio River Authority.

Berger noted that the program’s  success is due to the efforts of the volunteers and agencies noted above, as well as commercial crabbers’ efforts to improve management of their traps. Together, we can keep our Bays clean and productive.

To sign up for notifications related to next year’s efforts, contact Allan Berger at AllanRBerger@outlook.com.