This past Saturday, a group of Houston Zoo staff and other community volunteers got together at Fort Anahuac Park for the annual Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) Abandoned Crab Trap Removal. As a first-timer myself, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect – except that we would get dirty – and, boy, did we get muddy!
We all arrived in Anahuac bright and early Saturday morning to get started on the boot-stompin’ fun. The first boats went out – a couple of Zoo volunteers were lucky enough to join on an airboat – to collect any abandoned crab traps in the bay. When the first few boats returned to the dock, they were STACKED with traps. Volunteers (including myself) helped to get them off of the boats, and then the real fun began. First we checked each trap to see if any animals were left inside – sometimes a crab was removed to be returned to the water – then we stomped! Imagine Lucy from “I Love Lucy” stomping the pool of grapes – that was us, except with crab traps. Talk about fun!
Once they were crushed, the crab traps were put into a large dumpster that would later be sent to a recycling center.
The Chamber County Sheriff’s Department was also helping to retrieve abandoned crab traps this weekend, and I had a chance to ride out in an airboat with a couple of the officers. What a great experience! We rode around for a while before we found our first buoy; I watched as Officer Chris worked to get the first trap out of the water. We rode around a bit more until we found a group of about 6-8 buoys floating in the bay. This go-around, I pitched in, and let me tell you – pulling abandoned traps from the muddy bay is no easy task! Once we cleared the area, it started to rain so we decided to head back to shore with the traps we had collected.
Along the way, however, we saw a lone bird swimming in the bay, not looking so well. We rode next to the bird and saw her wing looked broken. Of course we couldn’t leave her there alone, so we got her out of the water and brought her back to safety on the shore. Luckily for us, one of the Zoo’s veterinarians was on-site and confirmed the bird’s wing was in need of repair. So, we arranged a ride for our rescued snow goose out to the Wildlife Center in Houston where she is currently receiving medical care.
Not only did we rescue a snow goose, we also saved about a dozen blue crabs and a mullet from the traps. And by the end of the day, we removed 147 abandoned crab traps from the bay!
Why did we get together for this event, you ask? Sometimes crab traps are abandoned in the bay – due to the changing tides or simply forgotten. When left in the waters, they can unintentionally harm aquatic species such as crabs, turtles, birds and even river otters. Every year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department closes crabbing in Texas waters for a 10-day period, in which volunteers are allowed to remove these littered traps. Since 2002, volunteers have recovered nearly 28,000 traps!
Want to get involved? Join the Galveston Bay Foundation next year for the 2016 Abandoned Crab Trap Removal. Check their website for updates: http://galvbay.org. We look forward to seeing you there!
And, remember every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you help us save animals in the wild!