California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project

The SeaDoc Society and the UC 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. 

Report california Lost Gear

Fill out the form below or call 1-888-491-GEAR to report lost gear in California. Lost gear in Washington can be reported on the Northwest Straits Initiative website

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Data collected between May 2006 to November 2012 shows the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project retrieved more than 100 tons of gear from California's coastal ocean, primarily in Southern California and including around the California Channel Islands (Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Catalina).

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.

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.


If you have questions about lost fishing gear removal in California or for copies of our field reports, contact Kirsten Gilardi. View the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project Policies & Procedures manual.