Required BRDs for Crab Traps Available at SCCF
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) new rule on mandatory bycatch reduction device (BRD) installation on all recreational crab traps went into effect on March 1, 2023.
“The diamondback terrapin, the western hemisphere’s only exclusively brackish water turtle species, has been negatively affected in many areas due to accidental drowning in both licensed and derelict or ghost traps,” said SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz.
In 2022, FWC passed new regulations banning the collection and possession of these turtles, as well as requiring BRDs on all recreational traps.
SCCF has volunteered to dispense BRDs that were supplied by FWC to the general public at no cost. Most crab pots have 2-4 entrances that must each have a BRD installed. These plastic or metal barriers are 6” x 2” and are easily attached to traps with zip ties.
“They have been shown to exclude 73 percent of terrapins that try to enter the trap,” said Lechowicz. “Terrapins have high sexual dimorphism with adult females that range from five to eight inches being much larger than males at three and a half to five inches.”
BRDs primarily save egg-laying sized female diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) from entering and likely drowning in crab traps. Large male terrapins are also excluded, while not deterring blue crabs from entering the trap without lowering the catch rate.
“The conservation of the diamondback terrapin is a high priority for SCCF, its partners, and its members. The foundation wanted to help in any way we could, so we volunteered to be a pick-up location for anyone that needs these free bycatch reduction devices for their recreational traps in order to reduce accidental terrapin mortality,” said Lechowicz.
Unfortunately, on the first day of the new regulations, an active but unlicensed trap was found in northern Lee County with 14 terrapins inside.
“Nine of them were drowned, one was nearly drowned but was rehabilitated, and three were found alive and released. This simple addition to crab pots will prevent the needless drowning of most terrapins,” he added.
BRDs can be picked up at the Wildlife & Habitat Management building at 3399 Sanibel-Captiva Rd between the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, while supplies last. There are both metal and plastic options. You must supply your own zip ties. These required additions to crab traps should also be available at most bait stores and establishments that sell fishing equipment.