Turtles can drown in crab traps after forcing their way into the trap or by becoming entangled in the mesh and being unable to return to the surface to breathe.
NSW DPI NSW recommends that fishers utilise the following measures to reduce the risk of turtle drowning in crab traps:
Currently several types of crab trap are available on the market. Traps that have funnels represent a reduced risk to turtles due to the entrance to the trap often being too small for a turtle to enter.
The large, rectangular, open-ended collapsible mesh type crab traps have large entrances at either end of the trap allowing turtles to swim inside and become trapped.
It is recommended that the entrance size of the trap is reduced as detailed below.
It is considered that a maximum entrance size of 30cm is appropriate to prevent turtle entry.
The entrance of an open-ended crab trap may be reduced by simply using either twine or an electrical cable tie to close the entrance in one or two places.
On traps with large funnel style entrances, the funnel can be reduced in size. This may be done using a piece of piping (or similar) across the external mouth of the funnel entrance.
These measures will help prevent turtles from entering the trap and becoming trapped.
To reduce the probability of entangling non-target animals; witches hats can easily be converted to a lift net by removing the float from above the mesh and re-attaching the float line with several lengths of lines directly to the ring.
A “witches hat” - the float keeps the netting material off the bottom and the inverted mesh operates as an entanglement net.
An example of a hoop or lift net - the ring and net lay on the bottom when set and crabs feeding on the bait are caught when the net is lifted.
Fishers should check their traps as regularly as possible, rather than leaving them unattended for extended periods of time. Reducing the soak time will reduce the probability of air breathing animals (such as turtles) drowning.
Note: All marine turtle species in NSW are listed as either endangered or threatened under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.