The nonprofit Ocean Aid 360 has highlighted a concerning statistic: one in every 10 crab traps is lost or abandoned, contributing to “ghost fishing” in Tampa Bay. These neglected traps continue to ensnare and harm marine life for up to five years. Captain Neill Holland, co-founder of Ocean Aid 360, observed this issue during charters in the region a few years ago, prompting him to take action.
In response to the problem, Ocean Aid 360, supported by federal grant money, organizes cleanup events known as Ghost Trap Rodeos. These events mobilize volunteers to recover abandoned traps and other debris from the waters. Since its establishment in 2018, the organization has successfully removed nearly 300,000 pounds of ghost gear, making a significant impact on the local marine ecosystem.
Ocean Aid 360 also collaborates with The Ocean Conservancy, providing valuable data and research to support environmental advocacy. J.P. Booker, the director of The Ocean Conservancy, emphasizes the importance of preventing ghost fishing to safeguard the future of commercial and recreational fishing. The organization is actively working on developing policies that could effectively mitigate the issue.
As a precautionary measure, Captain Neill Holland advises individuals heading out on the water to avoid placing traps in navigable channels where they could be a hazard to boats. Additionally, responsible fishing practices involve retrieving gear ahead of incoming storms to prevent losses and ensure a safer environment for both marine life and watercraft. The combined efforts of Ocean Aid 360 and collaborative organizations aim to address and ultimately eliminate the detrimental impact of ghost fishing in Tampa Bay waters.