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Concerns to turtles may lead to crab trap TEDs

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POSTED: May 5, 2007 5:02 a.m.
BRUNSWICK — Recently listed as an “unusual” species by the Board of Natural Resources, the diamondback terrapin will be the focus of two new studies coordinated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and involving the University of Georgia and volunteers from Chatham County.
GADNR had meetings to discuss diamondback terrapins earlier this week on Tybee Island.
Mark Dodd, a wildlife biologist with GADNR, said, “We are concerned that Georgia’s terrapin population may be threatened by accidental drowning in commercial style 2’x2’ wire traps commonly used by commercial and recreational crabbers. Terrapins are attracted to the traps by the bait, but once inside cannot escape and are drowned.”
In response to the need for better information about diamondback terrapins, the University of Georgia will be doing a three-year study to assess the status of Georgia’s populations and to identify the magnitude of the most serious threats.”
Doug Haymans, also with GADNR, said, “Currently 146 commercial blue crab fishermen are licensed to use 17,850 traps, or 122 traps per crabber. However, aerial observations along the Georgia coast suggest only half of the permitted traps are actually being used.”
Recreational crabbing effort with the commercial-style traps is unknown. Estimates from studies conducted during the early 1990s ranged as high as 200,000 recreational crabbing trips per year in Chatham and Glynn counties.
“We don’t have a specific license for recreational crabbing so we have no cost-effective way to estimate either effort or catch,” Haymans said.
Terrapins tend to inhabit narrow creeks close to uplands, the same sort of areas where an increasing number of waterfront homes and private docks are built. Many dock owners frequently fish two or more commercial-style crab traps from their dock. For this reason, there is concern that recreational crabbing may result in more accidental terrapin deaths than does commercial crabbing.
Tybee Island City Councilman Paul Wolff, a member of the GADNR Coastal Advisory Council, requested the department investigate the benefits of using terrapin excluder devices on crab traps. These TEDs allow crabs but not terrapins to enter the trap. New Jersey and Delaware require the use of TEDs in their inland crab fisheries and other states are investigating their use of TEDs.
GADNR will be conducting a cooperative study to gather more information about the effects of TEDs. Participants must be willing to use at least two commercial-style traps, one with TEDs installed and one without. Each time the traps are used, the volunteer will be asked to record the number of crabs as well as the number of terrapins. TEDs and logbooks will be provided free of charge, thanks to donations from the St. Catherine’s Island Center, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and the GADNR.
For more information, visit www.gadnr.org and click on Coastal Resources.
 

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