The Problem with Crab Pots

Friday, 12 Feb, 2021

Crab pots: An ongoing threat to Australian marine life

A remote clean up off Brisbane’s coastline has uncovered the ongoing impact discarded and abandoned fishing gear has on wildlife.

During a remote clean-up between Sea Shepherd volunteers and Brisbane’s Blue Peter Sailing School, the combined team found the body of a vulnerable green turtle and a deceased cormorant, both killed by crab pots.

Volunteers discovered the juvenile green turtle next to an abandoned crab pot on Teerk Roo Ra National Park (Peel Island). The turtle and crab pot were hidden in bushland, almost 15 metres from the shoreline, and a few hundred metres from the marine national park zone.

The Queensland Government has regulations in place to protect precious marine life in the Moreton Bay Marine Park area. Teerk Roo Ra is surrounded by a conservation zone on the south-eastern side, and a marine national park on the north-western side. The marine national park does not allow for fishing or crabbing, but the conservation zone does under regulations. The turtle was found just within the shores of the conservation zone.

Volunteers were disturbed by a scene happening all too regularly. During the second annual clean-up of nearby Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) in 2020, Sea Shepherd crew discovered the body of a large green sea turtle, entangled in a crab pot and beached on the western shores.

On neighbouring Coochiemudlo, the crew also uncovered the body of a heavily entangled cormorant in another decrepit crab pot. Choochiemudlo is not protected by a marine park or conservation zone, so fishing and crabbing is less regulated.

Turtles and seabirds are commonly found in the Moreton Bay region, and can be affected by fishing gear in the water and on the shore. Despite some government regulations, personal responsibility over fishing gear plays the most important role in protecting marine life.

Campaign Coordinator Grahame Lloyd said fishing gear is inherently dangerous equipment, designed to catch and kill marine life.

“Animals don’t know the difference between food and bait, that’s the whole point to fishing, but that risk extends to non-target animals like protected turtles and seabirds. It’s horrific seeing these animals entangled and killed by someone’s carelessness. People who make the choice to go fishing must take responsibility for their equipment."

He said the environment depends on healthy and biodiverse animals.

“Turtles and seabirds both play important roles in our ecosystem. We are lucky to be able to access and see such remote wilderness and its wildlife a short way from Brisbane, but we also have a responsibility to protect it. Nobody wants their children to find their favourite animal dead on the beach.”

The team removed a total of 390kg of trash and fishing debris from Coochiemudlo and Peel Islands, noting a significant number of plastic bottles, aluminium cans, polystyrene, and fishing nets. These items drift from the mainland and nearby Stradbroke Island, threatening resident and endemic marine and terrestrial animals.

The Sea Shepherd marine debris crew will continue to work in remote places around Australia to bring transparency and relief to beaches impacted by plastic pollution. Since 2016, our Marine Debris Campaign has removed over three million pieces of trash from Australian beaches with the help of community volunteers.

You can get involved too! Learn more about the Sea Shepherd Marine Debris Campaign or find an event.

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