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News and Media

News and Media

By Founder and President Kurt Lieber

We had planned on heading out to Santa Cruz Island on Sunday, December 3rd, but were thwarted by 35 to 40 mph winds and the resulting big waves.

Geoff Walsh has been telling me about an abandoned lobster trap he had seen at one of his favorite dive sites, Leo Carrillo State Park, which is in Malibu on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

Who would know that beneath the surface of the serene waters lie ghost gear harming the ocean flora and fauna?!

Malibu debris collection dive site

Leo Carrillo portraitWe learned from the California Department of Parks and Recreation that this park was named after Leo Carrillo (1880-1961) who was an actor, preservationist, and conservationist. Carrillo served on the California Beach and Parks commission for 18 years, was instrumental in the state's acquisition of the Hearst property at San Simeon, and came from a long line of distinguished original Californians. This beautiful, coastal park has 1.5 miles of beach for swimming, surfing, windsurfing, surf fishing and beachcombing, and also tidepools, coastal caves, and reefs for exploring.

We felt this would be a good time to try to remove the derelict traps since we already had divers and deck crew lined up for that day. 

Crew gets ready to remove marine debris

Kim Cardenas, Craig LaPorte, and Geoff brought their dive gear and made the laborious walk from Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) down to the beach. Robin LaPorte, Sue St. Sure, Mike Wynd, and I stayed on shore to help haul the trap back to the road in case the divers found it.

This state park is idyllic in that it is right on PCH, and along a very scenic stretch of the road. When we got there only three people were on the beach (only in December could this be the case!), and a small flock of marbled godwits were going about their business in the surf zone.

Marbled godwits

We met up at 9:00am, had a brief discussion about who was going to do what, and by 9:30am Kim, Craig, and Geoff were in their gear and heading out to the site where Geoff thought the trap would be.

ODA Diver Craig entering the Malibu waters

Kim and Craig had brought their scooters with them just in case the underwater visibility made it difficult to find that trap. This turned out to be a good call.

After they looked for the trap about 100 feet from shore where Geoff thought it was, they couldn’t find it. So, off to the “deep end of the pool” they went. About 25 minutes later, we saw two lift bags break the surface. But they were 200 yards offshore!

Lift bags at the surface alert us that debris has been raised.

They had brought a tow line with them, so they hooked that up to the trap and while holding on to their scooters, Kim and Craig started to haul the thing back to shore. It took them about 15 minutes to finally land it on the beach. 

Trap in surf zone with Kurt and Geoff removing the fishing equipment

Robin, Mike, and I proceeded to haul it out of the water and drag it up the beach toward the base of a 30-foot-high cliff that we’d have to haul it up.

In the meantime, the divers headed back out to retrieve another one they had seen. We soon had that one up on the beach as well. Unfortunately, along the way Craig dropped his underwater (UW) camera…

Ocean Defenders Craig, Robin, and Geoff

The dive conditions were just excellent with no waves and visibility around 30 feet. After a short break they all headed back out to see what they could find because they still hadn’t found the trap that Geoff had originally wanted us to go after, and Craig was determined to find that camera!

We have a double happy end to the story: Craig found his camera about 150 yards from shore. And look at the video he made:

And more good news! On their way back to the beach, he and Geoff found another abandoned trap. They soon had that one hooked up to two lift bags and dragged it to shore.

ODA Ocean Conservation Crew on beach Kurt Craig Kim Geoff and Robin

Three abandoned traps hauled out within two hours. The divers had a great time, saw some gorgeous UW scenery which Craig captured with his camera, set one trapped fish free, and the oceans can breathe a little easier with three traps out of the water.

Ocean Defenders Alliance Crew with Catch of the Day

Thanks Kim, Craig, Robin, Sue, Geoff, and Mike. Another delightful day with great people doing good things for our coastal waters!

If you live in Southern California and would like to have this kind of fun, please email our Outreach Coordinator Bailey at!