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News and Media

News and Media

By Captain Dave Merrill

Our flagship Mr. Barker’s LegaSea headed out of Oxnard harbor for our usual hunting of abandoned lobster traps on Sunday, July 3rd, 2022.

ODA volunteer ready to remove marine debris

The legal lobster fishing season had ended March 16th, so there shouldn’t be any active traps. See our last report California Ocean Defenders Free Trapped Animals showing how abandoned traps still catch marine life.

The weather forecast predicted 3-to-5-foot swells with winds increasing to 25 knots by afternoon. Typical Southern California summer conditions.

On board were three divers: Geoff Walsh, Mike Wynd, and new to the crew, Sagi. The deck crew was Jeff Connor, Sue St. Sure, and Merlita, with me, Dave Merrill handling the captain’s duties.

ODA Divers Crew on back deck

Just outside Oxnard harbor, we scanned the bottom for the Little Joe wreck but couldn’t find anything according to the GPS coordinates that had been given to us. So off we went to the Kopco Star, a wreck we had dived previously.

The Kopco Star was a kelp harvester built at Terminal Island (San Pedro) in 1952 and measured 51.6’ long, 27.3 in the beam, 4.8 in-depth, and powered by four diesel engines with a rating of 900 horsepower. It was owned by the Kopco Star Company of Los Angeles and was a kelpcutter that operated out of the Kopco kelp processing facility in Pt. Hueneme (Ventura County) harvesting kelp from Point Hueneme to Point Conception. On Tuesday, October 1, 1963, at around 10:00 pm the Kopco Star listed to port shortly after taking on a heavy load of kelp. It sunk about six miles offshore from Pt. Hueneme.

Back to present day!

Our divers had a very nice dive on the Kopco Star for the first and only dive. Visibility was limited in part due to so many salp (also known as sea grapes), plus some small jellyfish.

Example of sea grapesExample of sea grapes

On the wreck there was generally 20–25-foot visibility. More sea life there than has been seen before, with really big (four-foot-plus) bass. The Kopco Star is a very pretty wreck.

Mike, on his rebreather dived first as his gear allows him more time underwater, ran a line to the wreck which Geoff and Sagi followed when they entered the water.

ODA volunteer debris-removal divers in water

Mike had already located an abandoned lobster trap!

So, he rigged the trap up a lift bag, and when Geoff and Sagi got there, Geoff filled the bag with air, added another lift bag for good measure (i.e., extra pull), and shot it to the surface.

We looked around for a few more minutes but that was the only trap in the area.

Geoff with trap lineSagi and Geoff also picked up some long trap line (80ish feet) which Mike had cut. This is the type of line that’s so dangerous to passing whales.

The divers then headed to the surface where the conditions by then were a bit on the rough side, but it was by far the best dive we've had in several outings. The divers agreed one dive would have to do as the swell was building, and wind increasing even further.

Sue and Jeff retrieved the trap with the RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) and had it on deck by the time Geoff and Sagi surfaced.

Volunteer Merlita with trapMike surfaced not too much later, and with 3 moderately seasick deck crew, we headed back to port. We dropped off the trap and line at a fisherman’s dock. Then we headed back to the dock to wash things up.

Note from Captain Kurt: Thank you to Captain Dave and the So Cal Crew for keeping things going as soon as the seas would allow. Our Hawai’i crews are busy with multiple outings, so stay tuned for those reports soon!