PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — It's estimated nearly 10,000 abandoned crab traps are lost in Tampa Bay, creating hazards for anglers and senselessly killing marine life.
Ken Ashton and his teenage children are visiting from New York and spending a vacation day finding lost crab traps.
"I didn’t know what to expect, or what it would look like but when I pulled it up, I was like, 'Wow that’s why its killed so many fish,'" said 15-yr-old Kenneth Ashton, Jr.
The debris creates a danger to boaters, anglers, even swimmers— like a broken one that washed up on a beach this summer.
They also killing marine life.
"They continue to fish even though no angler is tending to them. Marine life gets trapped inside and acts as a bait for the next series of critters that come in behind them," said Neil Holland, president of Ocean-Aid 360.
With a Marine Debris Clean-up grant from NOAA, “Ocean-Aid 360” is putting on six monthly “Ghost Trap Rodeos.”
The event series is like fishing tournaments held in different spots around the bay. More than 30 teams go out and search for abandoned traps in shallow water, spotting the debris from high on the boat with polarized glasses.
"We’re giving away over $5,000 in prices to top collectors of marine debris," said Holland.
Debris like chairs, tires, even a bicycle were found in the water.
The ghost traps that are collected will be recycled, filled with cement and made into reefs to go back into the gulf.
And even though the Ashtons didn’t win a big prize, they say they are still winners.
"I felt good about myself, you know, because I like to fish. So, by doing this it's helping me in the long run and helping my children and childrens' children to catch fish later on," said Kenneth Ashton, Jr.
The next Ghost Trap Rodeo event is scheduled for March 23.
For more information visit OceanAid360.org.