Volunteers Cleared Lobster Traps from Local Beaches

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Source: Santa Barbara Channelkeeper

More than 35 volunteers and members of the commercial fishing community removed lobster traps from the sand between Ellwood Beach and Haskell’s Beach on Saturday and filled a 40-foot dumpster with the metal debris.

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper would like to thank all of the volunteers who spent the day cleaning up the coastline for their hard work and positive energy.  

“By working together today, we were able to remove thousands of pounds of derelict fishing gear that would otherwise have persisted on this beach for years and years,” said Interim Executive Director Ben Pitterle.

Volunteers used shovels, wire cutters, and pry bars to dig out buried traps, remove rocks and debris, and move them offshore to a commercial fishing boat. Traps were clipped onto a rope line and winched out from shore through the surf to a commercial fishing vessel. Chris Voss from Fishermen of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Harbor Commissioner Mike Nelson loaded traps and transported them to the Santa Barbara Harbor for proper disposal. 

In May, Channelkeeper launched a Watershed Brigade initiative to mobilize community volunteers to clear marine debris from local beaches. Last month, Watershed Brigade volunteers surveyed the coast for derelict lobster traps and identified 44 traps along the coastline. Channelkeeper reviewed the data and determined that the highest concentration of traps was located on the stretch of sand between Haskell’s and Ellwood Beaches. On Saturday, volunteers worked together to remove all of the buried traps. 

Derelict lobster traps are a serious environmental problem. Each winter, storms that bring heavy swells dislodge lobster traps. While in the ocean, ghost traps can continue to trap wildlife. As ghost traps drift, they can entangle marine organisms, release microplastics, and pose safety hazards to both vessels and beachgoers. Ultimately, they wash up on local beaches as pollution.  

During the 2019-2020 season, 6,503 lobster traps were reported as lost off California’s coast and this statistic is considered low because it reflects only reported losses.  

The U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife calls marine debris “one of the most pervasive threats to the health of the world’s coastal areas, oceans, and waterways,” and explains that “derelict fishing gear can injure or kill marine and coastal wildlife, damage and degrade habitats, interfere with navigational safety, cause economic loss to fishing and maritime industries, and threaten human health and safety.” 

“Our Watershed Brigade was designed for exactly this kind of project,” said Pitterle. “Our community is full of individuals who want to make a difference and help keep our beaches, creeks, and backcountry free of litter.” 

Channelkeeper’s Watershed Brigade is a community of volunteers who work together to clear trash and debris from local trails, creeks, rivers, urban areas, and beaches. Each month, the group focuses on cleaning up a different target area. 

“Being a member of the Watershed Brigade is a rewarding way to have a positive impact on our environment. It not only benefits our local coastline, but it also has an impact on the global issues caused by pollution,” said volunteer Michele Drexler. If you’d like to join, please visit https://www.sbck.org/brigade.


About Santa Barbara Channelkeeper
Santa Barbara Channelkeeper was founded in 1999 as a program of the Environmental Defense Center and became an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2001. The organization has worked to protect water quality, restore aquatic ecosystems, advocate for clean water, enforce environmental laws, and educate and engage citizens in implementing solutions to water pollution and aquatic habitat degradation.

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, a coalition of more than 300 grassroots Waterkeeper groups on six continents collectively patrolling and protecting more than 2.7 million square miles of watersheds and defending their communities’ right to clean water. It is also a member of the California Coastkeeper Alliance, a coalition of California Waterkeepers working to strengthen water quality and marine habitat protections at the state level.   To learn more, please visit www.sbck.org.

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spearo Jun 23, 2021 11:39 AM
Volunteers Cleared Lobster Traps from Local Beaches

Hear me out...non-degradable ID tags on the traps (not just the buoys). Lost traps reported by fishermen and recovered traps (like all of these) should carry a $1,000 fine for the commercial license associated with the lost or recovered gear. That is the fine (per lobster) for recreational fishermen caught poaching lobster in CA. All fines would be segregated and mandated to be used for warden salaries and increased officers to enforce the regulations in place. The exception would be Lake Arrellaga which is already heavily patrolled and would likely not benefit from enhanced regulations.

Harbor_Seal Jun 23, 2021 04:52 PM
Volunteers Cleared Lobster Traps from Local Beaches

The reason Santa Barbara Channel Keeper cleaned this beach is because someone reported seeing COMMERCIAL LOBSTERMEN removing the tags from the traps washed up on the shore... this is a common practice so no one can point a finger at which COMMERCIAL LOBSTERMEN are responsible for those traps.

The COMMERCIAL LOBSTERMEN will take the time to walk the beaches to pull their tags, but not clean the beaches of their littering commercial fishing gear... THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!

Harbor_Seal Jun 23, 2021 04:46 PM
Volunteers Cleared Lobster Traps from Local Beaches

Great job Channel Keeper!

However, local volunteers should NOT be the folks cleaning the beaches of these commercial traps, the responsibility lands squarely on the COMMERCIAL LOBSTER FISHERMEN!!

If I recall correctly, last year Channel Keeper cleaned a 1 mile stretch of Santa Cruz Island, collecting over 100 commercial traps!! For reference, Santa Cruz Island 77 miles of coastline... imagine how many more traps remain on the shores and underwater in our CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK??!!

There are approximately 50,000 commercial lobster traps dropped in the ocean off the coast of California every year, with 6,500 are reported lost. Each lost trap continues to ensnare wildlife for years to come. Anyone who swims underwater off the coast of California knows the traps are littering the bottom of our ocean. At least those washed up on the beach (often containing live lobsters and by-catch) are no longer ghost trapping sea creatures!

"Simmer down" some folks tell me, the traps are designed to fall apart! Ha! They would if the commercial fishermen used iron assembly clips which rust away in a reasonable amount of time, instead they mostly use stainless steel, which takes years to rust away, plus they add a "zinc anode" to the traps to further delay the decomposition. Additionally the traps are coated with tar based or plastic sealants to prevent decomposition, all which eventually breakdown and pollute our oceans when the traps are lost! And finally there's the plastic rope lines attached to the trap's buoys which ensnare whales and other sea creatures!!

Some changes must be made to the Commercial Lobster trapping process!!

Thank you Santa Barbara Channel Keeper and Commercial Fisherman, Chris Voss, for trying to make our beaches and seas cleaner!!

ChillinGrillin Jun 23, 2021 05:15 PM
Volunteers Cleared Lobster Traps from Local Beaches

Anyone who's been diving off the coast knows there are tons of abandoned traps underwater. It would be a fun project to dump a giant pile of traps on the fishing wharf and fuel dock in the harbor. It wouldn't be littering or vandalism, just a good deed of returning lost property.

AQUAHOLIC Jun 24, 2021 07:49 PM
Volunteers Cleared Lobster Traps from Local Beaches

I've been walking past these same lobster traps (below Sandpiper CG) for nearly 4 years! In fact, many of the traps with distinctive red coating on parts of the traps looked to be all from the same Lobsterman. We wondered at the time, did someone move in on another area and the lines were cut, or was the Lobsterman a newbie and effed up? Either way, dozens of brand new traps came ashore at the same time, yet NO ONE bothered to clean them up. And yes, GREAT EFFORT Volunteers! Too bad you had to clean up after someone's mess.....it would have been so MUCH easier to clean up all those years ago.

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