Man Accused Of Stealing Blue Crab Traps

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. – A 23-year-old St. Augustine man is accused of burglarizing commercial blue crab traps in Putnam County.

Trevor Jones was booked into the Putnam County Jail on Thursday, charged with theft from a blue crap trap, a third-degree felony. If convicted, Jones faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

"Stealing from a commercial blue crab trap is a serious offense because it is interfering with a person's livelihood," said Lt. George Pottorf, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Over Labor Day weekend, Pottorf and FWC Officer Mike Florence said they were on patrol near Fort Gates on the St. Johns River when they saw Jones throw a crab trap into the water from his boat. Officers said the trap did not belong to Jones, who had neither a commercial nor recreational permit to trap crabs.

The officers said they removed the trap as evidence and returned the live crabs to the water.

Trapping blue crabs requires a permit, whether it is for commercial or recreational purposes, and it is standard procedure for officers to inspect vessels when occupants are setting or pulling traps from the water, officials said.

Stealing from blue crab traps is a statewide problem, wildlife officials said. They said the blue crab is a restricted species, which means the number of people who can harvest blue crabs commercially is limited. In fact, commercial fishermen seeking a restricted species endorsement, or permit, to harvest blue crabs on a saltwater products license must prove that a certain percentage of their income is derived from the sale of blue crabs, wildlife officials said.

Another problem with pulling up someone else's crab traps is that the placement of traps is critical to a commercial crabber's success, officials said. They said that when someone pulls one up and throws it back into the water haphazardly, there is a good chance it won't end up in a good position to trap crabs.

But people who want crabs for dinner don't have to steal someone else's. Anyone with a valid recreational saltwater fishing license may harvest crabs in traps as long as the traps meet certain criteria, officials said. Recreational crabbers are limited to using five traps, each of which must be marked with a buoy with the letter R painted on it, officials said. The name and address of the crabber must also be permanently attached to the trap.

Each trap must have three escape rings so smaller crabs can escape, as well as a biodegradable panel or device that will deteriorate so crabs will not be forever trapped if the trap line is cut or the trap is abandoned.

To report crab trap thieves and other violations, call the 24-hour Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). Callers may remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward if their information leads to an arrest.