Spike in gators prompts crab-fishing ban in parts of Canaveral National Seashore

Spike in gators prompts crab-fishing ban at Canaveral National Seashore

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Wayne Funkhouser has spent many summers fishing for crabs at Canaveral National Seashore armed with only a string and net.

“Pretty much since I could hold a line,” he said.

Starting May 22, though, his days of crab fishing in certain areas will be over, as the National Park Service has banned the practice due to an increase in alligator activity.

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Crab fishing will be prohibited at high-public use areas, such as the vistas along Beach Road and Eddy Creek, National Park Service spokeswoman Kristen Kneifl said.

Due to the closure of Biolab Dike Road and low water levels, crab fishers have moved to other areas of the park, which has raised serious safety concerns, she said.

They believe the bait from the handheld crab lines is attracting the gators and are causing an increase in interactions with people.

Crab fishing generally involves throwing out a line with chicken parts on it, and the areas that will be closed have higher alligator populations, Kneifl said.

Officials worry that the gators could become accustomed to the food and associate it with people and could prompt dangerous interactions between visitors and the animals, she said.

As many as 100 crab fishers can be found at Canaveral National Seashore, Kneifl estimated.

Funkhouser lamented the loss of certain places to fish for crabs and the relaxing days he spend hauling in the crustaceans.

“That’s why people do it,” he said. “Plant a line with a chicken neck and string, and come out for $5 and catch crabs.”

The closures will be enforced by law enforcement, Kneifl said.