New Trap Catches Only Shrimp, Sun Herald, 01/07/07
By Al Jones
Source: Sun Herald
BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI, USA - Finally, after 30 years, Don Rainey's dream of saving the Gulf of Mexico is one step closer to a reality.
His step is in terms of an invention, but he still needs help taking the dream to the next level and getting manufacturers interested in his product.
The Biloxi native has designed, developed and patented shrimp traps he hopes one day will help save the habitat of the Gulf of Mexico, one of the richest bodies of water for seafood.
What Rainey invented are three traps ranging in size to catch small to larger amounts of shrimp without any bycatch of trout, snapper, flounder or crabs.
"The whole idea is to keep the Gulf of Mexico away from destruction," Rainey said. "The main thing is to save the Gulf of Mexico and other waterways. The concept is more important than the invention itself."
Rainey knows he's fighting an uphill battle because the shrimping industry is the backbone of South Mississippi's seafood industry. People have been pulling nets in the Mississippi Sound and offshore waters since the early 1900s and for many, it's their form of putting groceries on the table for their families.
Rainey, however, was a shrimper at one time. In fact, his family was one of the first to pull nets in South Mississippi and he got his first taste of the action in 1975 while working for his uncle, Buddy Drieling.
"My whole family was in the seafood business," Rainey said. "We caught shrimp, crabs and oysters back in the 1900s. When I started with my uncle, I saw all the bycatch - the boats were tearing everything up. At one time, breast-to-breast, six boats tore the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico up in one small area.
"That's when I started working on another way of catching shrimp. I wanted to go from nets to traps and my uncle said that would end his way of making a living. I disagreed."
The first set of traps, a rough copy of sorts, came together in 1981. Since the early days, Rainey has had three traps: Ocean Harvester, Bay Harvester and Bay Trap.
The Ocean Harvester can catch up to a barrel of shrimp while the Bay Harvester catches 15-to-20 pounds. The Bay Trap is capable of landing five-to-six pounds.
The traps, which are battery operated or run by night sticks, feature a gate similar to that of a standard crab trap. But neither of the traps require bait because shrimp feed off plankton, which is attracted to the trap by a small light.
When the plankton fill up the trap, shrimp enter and can't exit except for smaller shrimp.
Once again, fish will not get caught in the traps because the gates entering the traps are too small.
To test the traps, Rainey filled 20-gallon tanks with water and live shrimp. With the trap inside, the light was activated and shrimp became active and were caught inside.
"In 30 minutes, we had 35 shrimp go in," Rainey said.
Rainey then received a permit for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the traps worked in the bay waters on a trial basis.
"The reason they work are the lights," he said. "Light attracts plankton and plankton attracts shrimp. If you put the traps where the shrimp are, the shrimp will go into them. The good things is the shrimp can live a couple of days because the traps will be full of plankton.
"The Bay Traps can be used for fishermen who might want to use live bait. All they have to do is place the traps in the water for 30 minutes or so and they will have all the bait they need. This will never put live bait owners out of business because they are always going to sell bait. I just wanted something to save the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico."
Rainey said the Ocean Harvester will save the environment and the ecology. The traps will not harm smaller shrimp or oysters and eliminates bycatch, while the traditional pulling of shrimp trawls also eliminates oxygen from the water.
Although the traps are complete, they are not available for purchase. That's where Rainey's dream could end if investors are not located to keep the dream alive and get the traps on the market to be sold.
"They work," he said. "I want to keep the price down where people can afford them."