Trapped Terps in Crab Pots Highlight Need for Turtle Excluders - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Trapped Terps in Crab Pots Highlight Need for Turtle Excluders

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Dead terrapins found in Ocean City (Photo: WBOC) Dead terrapins found in Ocean City (Photo: WBOC)

WORCESTER COUNTY, Md. - A good Samaritan pulled a crab pot from the bay over the weekend in Ocean City only to find the pot filled with dead terrapins, rather than crabs.

Ocean City Animal Control responded to the call and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program looked into the incident as well.  About 20 terps were found rotting in the crab pot pulled from the bay in different stages of decay.  Officials with the Coastal Bays Program say the unfortunate situation is one that is avoidable.  Crab pots can get loose in normally one of two ways.

"One is a recreational crabber on a dock, it cuts loose, they don't pay attention, and they can float out into the bay," said Sandi Smith of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.  "And the other is potentially a boater may have run over a commercial crab pot which usually will cut it from the buoy."

The pot found over the weekend in Ocean City was a commercial crab pot.  A commercial pot is not required to have any by-catch release devices, or turtle excluders, attached to them.  However, any recreational crab pots are required to have four of the square devices attached to them.  The turtle excluders are metal or plastic squares that allow crabs into the pots but are too small for terrapins to get through.  Use of the devices has been promoted by the National Aquarium, along with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program in a new PSA.  Having the excluders on a pot is very important for recreational crabbers.

"If someone doesn't have them, they can be fined up to $1,000," Smith said.

Saving the turtles is the ultimate goal with these devices and while the incident with the dead terps is certainly sad, the Coastal Bays Program is hoping to turn the situation into a positive.

"If even one person calls the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and asks for a by-catch reduction device and they take it and put it on their crab pot, we would hope that would save at least one, two, possibly over 20 turtles," Smith said.

For information on how to install a turtle excluder on your recreational crab pot, be sure to visit this page for instructions.

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