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Crab trap raider caught, faces stiff repercussions

For immediate release: September 15, 2011
Contact: Joy M. Hill, 352-258-3426

Crab trap raider caught, faces stiff repercussions

A 23-year-old St. Johns County man found out recently that robbing commercial blue crab traps is serious business in Florida and could land him in prison. Trevor J. Jones (DOB 01/31/88) of St. Augustine was booked into the Putnam County jail Sept. 15, charged with theft from a blue crap trap, a third-degree felony. If convicted, Jones faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

“Stealing from a commercial blue crab trap is a serious offense because it is interfering with a person’s livelihood,” said Lt. George Pottorf.
Over the Labor Day weekend, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Officer Mike Florence and Pottorf were on patrol near Fort Gates on the St. Johns River when they saw Jones throw a crab trap into the water from his boat. As it turned out, the trap did not belong to Jones, who had neither a commercial nor recreational permit to trap crabs. The officers removed the trap as evidence and returned the live crabs to the water.

Trapping blue crabs requires a permit, whether it is for commercial or recreational purposes, and it is standard procedure for officers to inspect vessels when occupants are setting or pulling traps from the water.

Stealing from blue crab traps is a statewide problem. The blue crab is a restricted species, which means the number of people who can harvest blue crabs commercially is limited. In fact, commercial fishermen seeking a restricted species endorsement (permit) to harvest blue crabs on a saltwater products licensemust prove that a certain percentage of their income is derived from the sale of blue crabs.

Another problem with pulling up someone else’s crab traps is that the placement of traps is critical to a commercial crabber’s success. When someone pulls one up and throws it back into the water haphazardly, there is a good chance it won’t end up in a good position to trap crabs.

But people who want crabs for supper don’t have to steal someone else’s. Anyone with a valid recreational saltwater fishing license may harvest crabs in traps as long as the traps meet certain criteria. Recreational crabbers are limited to using five traps, each of which must be marked with a buoy with the letter “R” painted on it. The name and address of the crabber must be permanently attached to the trap also. And each trap must have three escape rings, so smaller crabs can escape, as well as a biodegradable panel or device that will deteriorate, so crabs will not be forever trapped if the trap line is cut or the trap is abandoned.

To report crab trap robbers and other violations, please call the 24-hour Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). Callers may remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward if their information leads to an arrest.