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News and Media

News and Media

By Founder and President Kurt Lieber

After the massive storms we’ve been seeing here in California over the last three months, we got a break in the weather.  It seems like everyone is slowly getting out and enjoying our rejuvenated mountains, rivers, and coasts.  It’s a wonderful thing to behold.

Santa Barbara coast

One of the downsides to all this extreme weather is that the storms also brought huge waves to our shores.  This happened smack dab in the middle of the lobster hunting season.  With roughly 150,000 commercial lobster traps in the waters off the California coast, an unusual amount of them became abandoned mostly due to the power of the waves moving the traps a long way from where the fishermen originally set them. 

The waves actually spit hundreds of traps out of the water and onto the beaches.  We’ve been getting calls about specific locations where people have found dozens of traps washed up on the shore, asking us if we can remove them.

One such call came from somebody in Santa Barbara.  She said there were at least 10 abandoned traps on a stretch of sand near a restaurant called Hendry’s. 

Knowing that we have a lot of eager volunteers who are students at the University of California Santa Barbara, I contacted Abigail Sanford and Marina Stoilova who have worked with us in the past and are willing to get the word out to their groups of potential volunteers.

Abigail with the boat crewAbigail (second from right) with the ODA boat crew, July 2022.
Abigail ready to diveHere they are ready to dive -- Abigail (far right)!

Within a couple of days, they had rounded up eight people to help locate and remove any traps we would find!

We met up in the parking lot of the restaurant at 3pm on Wednesday, April 5th.  It was a gorgeous day, with no wind and hardly any waves.  We also made sure to time this at a low tide so we wouldn’t have to maneuver around any waves.

Volunteers this day were: Maddie Cunningham, Stuart Jaeger, Sarah Lam, Logan Ossentjuk, Abigail Sanford, Marina Stoilova, Hayden Vega, Darius, ODA Advisory Board Member Kim Cardenas, and myself.  Ten of us in all. Be sure to check out the photo gallery below -- there are lots of great pics!

Once we got organized, we headed south and hit the sand while dragging two handcarts and a shovel along with us. 

At first, we didn’t see any of the reported traps, but then after walking south for 15 minutes we found our first one.  It had been pushed up over the sand and was smashed up at the base of the cliff.  We dragged it out onto the sand and continued on our way.  We’d pick that one up on our way back to the parking lot.

Crew removing traps

Five minutes later we found two more and repeated the process.  We kept finding more and more traps and realized that this could go on forever.  Knowing that people had committed to doing this for two hours, we decided to haul all we had found back where our truck was. 

UCSB students clean the beach

Even though there were 10 of us, there were so many traps that we had to make two trips to pick them all up.  Even though we did our best to stack three traps onto each handcart, we still had to carry a few of the traps by hand.  No minor feat when you consider that we were walking on a mixture of rocks and sand, plus we had covered about a mile of coastline.

Lobster traps litter the coastline

There is a lot of satisfaction in working as a team to do something good for our oceans and coastlines!

The ODA Santa Barbara beach and cliff cleanup crew

When we finally had all our booty back on land, we posed for some pictures before we started loading them onto the ODA truck. 

ODA UCSB Crew with Catch of the Day

The truck proved to be too small to get all the traps onto it, even though we did our best to strategically stack them on top of each other.

ODA Truck load full of traps

Some of the people had SUV’s and they could haul one in each car.  In all we removed 15 traps, three trap weight bars, and lots of broken up pieces of traps. 

I love our celebration photo. After all this is the most traps we've ever removed in ONE DAY!

Celebrating the record haul of traps

By this time, it was almost 6:30pm, and not one person had left even though we blew right by our planned 5 o’clock finish time.  I can’t thank these students enough.  This was really hard work, but rather than complain, they were all smiling, having a good time, and knew that they were helping our coastline heal.

No longer will those rusting carcasses of traps be on our beautiful beaches (and no high waters can pull them back out to sea).

Carting the traps away from the ocean
The parade of traps goes on!

At least one mile of Santa Barbara beach is now cleared of these 15 traps, with many more miles to go.  But I keep wondering: What does it look like underwater?  The handful of fishermen I’ve talked to tell me of guys who have lost dozens of traps, with at least two of them saying they lost over 100!

A diver in Laguna Beach reported seeing at least 20 abandoned traps on a single dive there, and he felt there could be 40. 

Please keep reporting lost traps that you see either on the beach or on your dives.  It feels like this is going to be our busiest season ever. 

To let us know if you see anything, please visit our Debris Report page – we thank you.  Keep those reports coming!