Comparing VA BRD with SC BRD in preventing terrapins from entering crab pots

Blue crabs are the target of the most valuable fishery in the Chesapeake region, and are fished both commercially and for sport. Unfortunately, other aquatic animals are often caught as bycatch when fishing for crabs. I am joining Dr. Chambers’ research team to attempt to mitigate the impact of crabbing on the northern diamondback terrapin (turtle) population. One strategy is to exclude the turtles from the trap by modifying the entrance with a bycatch reduction device (BRD). With this research, we hope to examine the efficacy of the BRD developed for use in Virginia versus the efficacy of the untested BRD that the South Carolina legislature is poised to mandate.


This research is part of a continuing effort by Dr. Chambers to improve the BRD’s effectiveness and implementation. A primary concern of this research is to ensure that BRDs are able to exclude turtles while still allowing mature crabs to be caught. We aim to minimize affects on fishermen so that mandatory BRD use might be legislated without backlash from fishermen. Past experiments have looked at different sizes, colors, and even magnetization of BRDs and the effect on catch.

This summer I will be examining the differences in catch rates of VA BRDs and SC BRDs in the James River. While similar in design, the two BRDs serve different populations of animals, and should be designed to reflect that. I will test to see if the differences are significant. My data collection will take place at the Naval Weapons Station (a pristine tributary to the James), where I will check crab traps on a daily basis and record all animals caught. This data will be utilized during the Fall of 2016 for an independent research course in ENSP, with the ultimate goal of publishing a paper.