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Ghost Trap Rodeo held in Biscayne Bay, clearing out old lobster traps and marine debris

By Louis Aguirre

Published: July 19, 2023

Read and watch the original article on Local10 News.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Biscayne Bay is in crisis, and it’s all hands on deck to save it.

Recent extreme temperatures, with heat indexes reaching well over 100 degrees, only underscore the urgency.

As part of the official launch of the Biscayne Bay Friendly Campaign, Miami-Dade County joined forces with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to host the first ever Ghost Trap Rodeo in Southern Biscayne Bay, near Matheson Hammock, to help rid the watershed of abandoned crab and lobster traps that are still actively killing marine life.

“It’s a big bay, and these things can be really difficult to find,” said DERM project supervisor John Ricisak. “Nobody is caring for it, nobody knows about it. And so, marine life enters the trap, they die, they act as bait to attract additional marine life, and it’s a cycle that continues until either the trap falls apart, or the trap is removed from the water.”

That was the goal of the day, to pull out as many of these ghost traps as possible out from the bay before they can do any more damage to our challenged watershed.

Neill Holland is a charter boat captain from Tampa who launched the conservation NGO Ocean Aid 360 that, since 2018, has removed 195,000 pounds (almost 98 tons) of marine debris from Florida waterways.

This was the first ever Ghost Trap Rodeo he’s organized in Miami-Dade.

“Fishing gear routinely gets shuffled along the bottom and rolled into areas where the fisherman can’t find it any longer. It goes lost to its angler,” said Holland. “I think we did really well. We got we got some boats out here participating with us some knowledgeable folks, I’m seeing a lot of youth in the mix today. And that makes me very happy.”

Environmental groups like Miami Waterkeeper and Sea Keepers also took part in the rodeo.

“When you see the length of rope that we took out of that water, that’s what really strangles and kind of ties around certain things like dolphins have lost tails because of that kind of thing,” said Tony Gilbert, Chief Programs Officer with Sea Keepers.

But it was the local family who plays together and who slayed together, winning the rodeo with biggest haul of the day, over 720 pounds of marine debris.

“We did good,” said Spencer Crowley. “We got filled up the boat got eight or nine and traps. We couldn’t get any more, because the boat was literally full.”

But his kids were most proud of the sea creatures they saved from the traps.

“We just got them, threw them back in the water, so they can grow and be good for lobster season,” said 15-year-old Jackson Crowley

For Chief Bay Officer Irela Bague, this was the perfect example of good environmental stewardship, one she says is the responsibility of every single resident of Miami-Dade County.

“We all have to do our part,” she said. “Coastal cleanups are happening weekly. We want everyone to just think about what they’re doing when they’re out there. And remember not to leave things behind.”

For the Crowley family, it’s about making sure Biscayne Bay stays beautiful and healthy for generations to come.

“I wanted the kids to experience the satisfaction of doing something positive for the bay,” said Spencer Crowley. “We’re out on the bay all the time, at least once a week. And this kind of event, I think is the type of event that we really need in the county to get people engaged and to really make a difference.”

Good environmental stewardship begins at home.

The Crowley family provides a shining example of how all of us must step and do what we can to preserve and restore our natural world.

For more info on Ghost Trap Rodeo events, click here.

For more info on the Biscayne Bay Solutions: Recovery Plan, click here.

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