Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Pilot Project

The California Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Pilot Project was started in July 2005 by the SeaDoc Society with funding from the California Ocean Protection Council ($345,000), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation ($58,325) and the NOAA Marine Debris Program ($55,000).

The overall goal of the California Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Pilot Project was to: determine the degree to which derelict fishing gear is an important enough issue in California to warrant establishment of a statewide removal program, and,  if so, to position the project for long-term operation within the State of California.

During the pilot project  (July 2005 – December 2006) SeaDoc Society:

  • Removed nearly 10 tons of derelict fishing gear from around California’s Channel Islands
  • Identified 773 lost fishing gear targets through volunteer reports, and 47 days of volunteer diver surveys, sidescan sonar, and search and collection efforts
  • Cleaned up approximately 198 sq. km. of seafloor habitat through gear removal, resulting in reduced hazards for boaters, less obstructed grounds for commercial fisheries, and less threat for living coastal resources;
  • Repatriated 111 traps in good condition to commercial lobster fishermen
  • Completed the California Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Project Policies and Procedures Manual (March 2006);
  • Acquired permits, tested and refined protocols, and hired qualified staff and contractors; and
  • Distributed outreach materials and received media exposure

SeaDoc Society used the success of the pilot project to launch the California Lost Gear Recovery Project.  Since May 2006, the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project has retrieved nearly 11 tons of gear from 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.