California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project

The California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project is funded by grants made specifically for gear removal in California. The California project is an example of the kind of cross-pollination and collaboration across political boundaries that are hallmarks of the SeaDoc Society’s work: lessons learned in Washington and California are shared with groups working in each area to make gear removal more efficient and more economically feasible.

Net being removed from California watersThe SeaDoc Society at the University of California, Davis Wildlife Health Center launched the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project in July 2005 in partnership with the California Ocean Protection Council and State Coastal Conservancy, the Northwest Straits Commission (Mt. Vernon, Washington), and NOAA’s Marine Debris Program and Office of Restoration.

This project encourages ocean users to report the presence of lost gear, and hires experienced commercial SCUBA divers to remove gear from near-shore waters in a safe and environmentally sensitive manner.

retrieving a derelict potSince May 2006, the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project has retrieved more than 60 tons of gear from California’s coastal ocean, primarily in Southern California, including around the California Channel Islands (Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Catalina). [Figures as of November 2012]

As well, the project has cleaned more than 1400 pounds of recreational fishing gear off public fishing piers from Santa Cruz to Imperial Beach including more than 1 million feet of fishing line. Several of these piers now have fishing line recycling bins, to encourage proper disposal of unwanted hooks and microfilament.

monofilament and hook recycling bin

And although the debris was not fishing gear, in May 2010 the project removed 650 discarded toilets and automobile tires weighing almost 20 tons from a rocky reef off Pt. Dume, Malibu. This is an area under consideration by the State of California for special designation as a Marine Protected Area in large part because of the large reef it encompasses. SeaDoc and the Department of Fish and Game were keen to restore as much of the reef to more pristine conditions as possible.

Currently, with the support of the California Wildlife Conservation Board and the NOAA Marine Debris Program and mitigation monies transferred from the California Coastal Commission, the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project is continuing to help reduce the potential impact of lost fishing gear on living marine resources and underwater habitat by building upon successes to date to accomplish the following new goals:

  • Enhancing the function of and restoring underwater habitat of the designated and proposed Marine Protected Areas in Central and Southern California by focusing gear recovery effort in these MPA networks;
  • Retrieving lost fishing gear anywhere on the coast where it is a high priority for removal because of demonstrated or potential impacts to marine wildlife and people, including more work in the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary and extensive work in the Santa Barbara Channel and off the Los Angeles County coast;
  • Working closely with commercial Dungeness crab fishermen on the North Coast to develop a program whereby crab fishermen are conducting the gear work themselves and selling the recovered gear back to their fellow fishermen, work that is made all the more financially feasible through reimbursements of out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the recovery work; and
  • Increasing the likelihood that ocean users and enthusiasts will know enough about the project and the issue to serve as our “eyes” on and under the water through outreach.

Report lost gear in California:

California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project Policies & Procedures manual (pdf).

If you have questions about lost fishing gear removal in California or for copies of our field reports, contact staff:

Kirsten Gilardi photo
Kirsten Gilardi
Jennifer Renzullo photo
Jennifer Renzullo
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