What You Need To Know: Underwater Ghost Traps Are Killing Fish [With Ocean Aid 360]


There are many issues that threaten the quality of our fisheries such as water pollution, red tide, shoreline erosion and more.

One of the threats that you don’t really hear about that much is the damage abandoned and lost craps do to our fisheries.

Thousands, if not millions, of crab and bait traps are set every year and lost. These abandoned traps create prisons for fish and hazards for boaters.

Target fish, crabs and bycatch wander into these traps only to die in vain because the trap is abandoned.

However, there are people out there working tirelessly to remove these ghost traps from our fisheries and to collect other harmful marine debris as well.

To learn more about what we can do to help solve this issue, we decided to talk to Capt. Neill Holland of Ocean Aid 360 to hear what they’re organization is doing to remove these ghost traps.

Capt. Neill Holland

Capt. Neil Holland Talking about ghost traps

Capt. Neill was born and raised in St. Pete, Florida. He grew up a fishing fanatic.

His first boat was a flatback canoe with an electric trolling motor. He later graduated to a bass boat with sparkle color sides he used to chase tarpon in Boca Grande Pass — right next to some of the world’s most infamous tarpon guides.

By age 17, he earned his Captain’s license and his first job was writing the Captain’s Column for the St. Pete Beach Times.

He attended Columbia University to get his degree in journalism and returned to Florida shortly after that.

Over his lifetime, Capt. Neill has developed a passion for conserving and protecting the Tampa Bay estuary he loves.

He now owns and operates Go Fish Tampa Bay Charters and runs a flats boat and bay boat for clients in Tampa Bay.

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Ocean Aid 360


Through the work he has done throughout his career, Capt. Neill became involved with Ocean Aid 360.

Ocean Aid 360 is a nonprofit organization that seeks to be a new powerhouse for assessment, implementation, and evaluation of marine habitat restoration programming.

One of their main focuses is removing abandoned and derelict crab and fish traps from coastal estuaries.

Why do they focus on removing these traps?

In the commercial fishing industry alone, there are 800,000 traps set out every year. Roughly 30 percent of those traps are lost or abandoned and remain where ever they were set out.

That’s approximately 240,000 traps abandoned in our waterways each year.

These traps capture fish and bycatch that have no way of escaping. Marine life in these traps simply die for no reason.

Ghost Trap Rodeo Series

Ocean Aid 360 aims to reduce the damage these traps do to our fisheries by removing as many as possible through a few different initiatives.

For instance, the Ghost Trap Rodeo event series brings individuals to different locations to collectively go out and remove as many derelict traps and marine debris as possible in one day. The individuals who bring in the most debris and traps win some awesome fishing prizes at the end of the day.

Between the Ghost Trap Rodeo events, Ocean Aid 360 is out on the water collecting and removing marine debris and abandoned traps as well.

Their goal is to pull out 750 abandoned traps by July 31, 2019.

Check out the video of Capt. Neill talking about the Ghost Trap Rodeo event series:

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In this podcast episode, we talk about the issues with ghost traps, including:

  • Why these ghost traps pose such a danger to our fisheries
  • What Ocean Aid 360 is doing to remove ghost traps and marine debris
  • How you can get involved to solve this issue

Have any questions or feedback about this podcast episode?

Let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page!

Note: Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to the Fish Strong podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

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Capt. Neill Holland On The Fish Strong Podcast

Ghost Trap Expert Capt. Neil

Click the play button to listen right here on our site or click either button below to go directly to iTunes or Stitcher to download the episode.

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Note: Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to the Fish Strong podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

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Ghost Traps: The Vicious Fish-Killing Cycle

Ghost Traps

The real problem with derelict and abandoned crab traps is not the fact that fish die in the traps, it’s how many different times it can happen in each trap.

These abandoned traps kill more and more fish the longer they remain in the water by promoting a vicious cycle that repeats itself.

The cycle goes like this:

  1. A trap is set with bait and left out in the water to collect the intended target.
  2. The trap is lost or abandoned and left in the water for a long period of time.
  3. Fish, crabs and other marine life are attracted to the bait and are captured by the trap.
  4. The fish trapped in the abandoned trap dies, creating fresh new bait in the trap.
  5. New marine life is attracted to the new bait, thus creating a new group of trapped marine life.
  6. New marine life dies, creating more fresh bait and perpetuating the cycle.

These traps don’t just kill marine life the first time you put them out with bait. They cause unintended deaths of other fish and marine life and the fresh bait continues the cycle of killing marine-life.

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Redfish after removing ghost traps

Ghost traps pose a formidable threat to our fisheries. However, using the tips from Capt. Neill and Ocean Aid 360 are simple and helpful ways to combat this issue.

Check out the Ocean Aid 360 website here to learn more about the great work they’re doing.

You can also contact them directly by emailing them at info@oceanaid360.org.

Also, check out Capt. Neill’s charter website if you’re looking for a fishing guide in St. Pete and Tampa Bay.

If you have any questions about this podcast or this article, let us know in the comments.

Tight Lines!

Related Posts: 

1. The Biggest Threats To Our Oceans & Fisheries (2018)

2. What You Need to Know on How Politics are Destroying our Fisheries

3. The Top Mistakes When Taking Kids Fishing For The First Time [With C.A.S.T. For Kids]

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Phillip McCoy
5 years ago

FWC has an app called FWC Reporter. You should be able to use it to report abandoned traps. It will take the location directly from your phone when using the app.

David Bush
5 years ago

Thanks for the conservation efforts! Here’s how it’s handled in Texas: https://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/water/conservation/Crab_trap/Crab_trap.phtml

roy noblin
5 years ago

how do you tell the difference? no float attached i guess is one way but others have been blown to other locations so the trapper does not know where they are but they have a float still attached. i see some in crystal river area that are up real close to islands but with float there is no way i will touch them.

Chris Stanard
5 years ago

Many thanks to Capt. Holland for spearheading this effort. An important cause for sure. Looking forward to an event in Charlotte Harbor.


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