Volunteers clean the lobster traps at Black Rock Beach

Source: Guardian of the Santa Barbara Range

On Saturday, May 21, nearly fifty Santa Barbara Channelkeeper volunteers and members of the commercial fishing community worked together at Black Rock Beach in Goleta to dig and remove forty beached lobster traps and prepare twenty more for future withdrawal.

During lobster season, storms with large swells can dislodge set traps and send them adrift. As these traps are carried by currents, they can entangle marine organisms, release microplastics and pose safety risks to ships. When they wash up on shore as debris, they can also be dangerous to swimmers and wildlife.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reports that approximately 6,500 traps are lost off the California coast each fishing season. Without regular cleaning, dozens of traps can accumulate on certain beaches and accumulate over time.

On Saturday, volunteers used shovels and bolt cutters to extract buried traps from rocks and sand at Black Rock Beach in Goleta.

In 2021, Channelkeeper leveraged its Watershed Brigade community cleanup program and volunteers to inspect local beaches, helping to locate and report abandoned traps to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Through this community effort, the organization discovered a high concentration of traps that had accumulated near Black Rock Beach, near a heavily fished area below More Mesa. After the 2022 lobster season ended on March 16, the organization began planning with local fishermen to remove abandoned traps from the beach.

During Saturday’s cleanup, volunteers used shovels and bolt cutters to extract the buried traps from the rocks and sand. The heavy, steel-framed traps were hooked to a buoy rope and winched through the waves to the Bella B, a commercial fishing boat owned by local fisherman, Chris Voss.

The traps were hooked to a buoy rope and winched through the waves to the Bella B, a commercial fishing vessel

Kim Selkoe, executive director of the Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara, participated in the event and carried the buoy line from boat to boat by kayak with volunteer Mark Matthews. Chris Voss, Ava Schulenberg, and Santa Barbara Harbor Commissioner Mike Nelson loaded the traps aboard the Bella B and transported them to the Port of Santa Barbara for recovery or proper disposal.

“We are grateful for this opportunity to partner with our local fishing community,” said Benjamin Pitterle, Science and Policy Director of Channelkeeper. “We also appreciate the dedicated work of the volunteers, many of whom were UCSB students, who worked to remove the pitfalls. By working together today, we were able to remove over a thousand pounds of derelict fishing gear that would otherwise have lingered on the beach for years.

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