Volunteers Cleared Lobster Traps from Local Beaches

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.


Written by sbck

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper is a grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Santa Barbara Channel and its watersheds. Learn more at sbck.org

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