Crab Trap App

CCRM has been studying the ecological and economic impacts of derelict blue crab traps for several years and ways to reduce the problems. Commercial watermen have used their boats and skills to help locate and remove derelict blue crab traps to reduce economic impacts to the blue crab fishery.

High school students and volunteer community scientists recently joined the trap removal effort in Virginia. The students participated in a ‘Crab Trap App’ STEM Challenge to help develop a real-world application so that registered citizens can locate and record derelict trap data on their smart phones.  This citizen science program is only for Virginia waters in the winter when the fishery is closed.  The next opportunity to participate starts in December. 

Registered community scientists are trained and authorized to use the app following a protocol required by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the agency responsible for managing the blue crab fishery. The Virginia trap removal program now expands across a wide geographic area thanks to the collaboration of scientists, watermen, fisheries managers, students, and citizens working together.

Want to Volunteer?  Read More and Register below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the qualifications to participate?
Volunteer participants must:
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Register with an email address
  • Watch a training video
  • Waive all parties from liability
  • Comply with data collection protocols
When and where does this program operate?
This citizen science program is only for Virginia waters in the winter when the fishery is closed. (yearly January - March)
What does the program ask volunteers to do?
Volunteers will locate derelict pots, use a smartphone app to document the location and take a photo, and remove the derelict pot from the water.
How do I get started?
Fill out the 'Register to Participate' form below.  You will be sent a link.  Watch the training video, review the field guide, read and sign a liability waiver, and then receive instructions to download the Crab Trap App to a smartphone that can be taken into the field.  You will also receive a Volunteer Participation Form that must be with you while you are retrieving derelict crab traps. 
Where do I look for derelict and abandoned crab traps?
Any tidal creek or river in Virginia where it is safe to navigate in boats or canoes and kayaks.  Along tidal shorelines with permission from property owners. 
How do I remove the trap from the water? 
Always wear safety gear like gloves, a life jacket if working from a boat, and appropriate weather gear.  Use a boat hook to grab the buoy rope.  Then grab the rope and pull the trap on board or up onto the shoreline so it is entirely out of the water.  Once the trap is on the boat or land, fill out the data form on the app and take photographs.  Watch the required training video. 
Will I get paid or reimbursed for any expenses associated with the project? 
No, all personal expenses are the responsibility of volunteer participants.
How do you determine if a blue crab is male or female? 
Refer to Crab Trap App Field Guide.
Can I keep live crabs to sell or for personal consumption? 
No, live animals should be released back into the water.
What is bycatch?
Unwanted fish and other marine creatures caught during commercial fishing that cannot be sold or kept.
What bycatch species are commonly found in derelict crab traps? 
Refer to Crab Trap App Field Guide.
What if I cannot identify a bycatch species? 
Take photos from different angles.  An accurate count of different bycatch animals is the most important information to report.
Where can I dispose of removed traps?
Local waste management collection centers.