The SeaDoc Society at the University of California, Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center launched the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project in July 2005. This project encourages ocean users to report the presence of lost gear, and hires experienced commercial SCUBA divers to remove gear and other marine debris from near-shore waters in a safe and environmentally sensitive manner.
Since May 2006, the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project has retrieved more than 100 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.
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 was 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 Wildlife were keen to restore as much of the reef to more pristine conditions as possible.
Currently, with 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 and marine debris on living marine resources and underwater habitat:
- 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, especially in the Channel Islands and off the Southern California coast;
- Working closely with commercial Dungeness crab fishermen to recover lost crab gear off the North and Central Coasts to reduce the hazard it poses to whales and the fishery; 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, abandoned and discarded gear online
- Call 1-888-491-GEAR
If you have questions about lost fishing gear removal in California or for copies of our field reports, contact Kirsten Gilardi, email@example.com
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.
Lost fishing gear is commercial and recreational fishing gear — nets, traps, pots, line — that becomes lost or is discarded in the water.
The gear ends up sitting on the sea floor, getting caught on rocky reefs, or floating in the water column.
The majority of this lost gear does not decompose in seawater and can remain in the marine environment for years.
Lost gear impacts the marine environment in several ways:
- it can continue to "catch" marine animals, which become entangled or trapped;
- it can damage the habitat upon which it becomes entangled or upon which it rests;
- it can pose an underwater hazard for boaters, entangling boat propellers and anchors;
- and it can similarly endanger humans, especially divers.
Lost gear is also a visual blight, diminishing the natural aesthetic quality of the seafloor and rocky reef habitat for underwater enthusiasts.
SeaDoc works on derelict fishing gear in California and in the Salish Sea.
Our executive director, Kirsten Gilardi, runs the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project out of the Wildlife Health Center offices at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. (Dr. Gilardi is also co-director of the Mountain Gorilla One Health Project and the Envirovet Summer Institute.)
SeaDoc provides technical assistance and support for derelict gear removal in the Salish Sea. We have worked closely with the Northwest Straits Commission to analyze data from recovered nets to determine the economic impact of lost gear and its removal.
The results showed a clear return on investment for removing nets. For example, we calculated that an abandoned net might kill almost $20,000 worth of Dungeness crab over 10 years. Cost to remove? $1,358.00.
Click here to learn more about the economic impact of derelict gear.
Photos by Jen Renzullo. Video by Mike Neil.