Fishermen-led Fishing Gear Recovery and Recycling in California

Captain John Beardon, and Deckhands Carl Wakefield and Bob Banks recovered more than 300 traps in Crescent a City (Photo Credit: J. Renzullo, California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project, UC Davis)

The Regents of the University of California - Davis, Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association and the NOAA Marine Debris Program teamed up to establish a port community-based, fishermen-led commercial fishing gear recovery and recycling effort on the North Central California Coast.

Project Dates: January 2014 - December 2014

Who is involved?
This one-year project was funded through the Fishing for Energy partnership between the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Covanta Energy Corporation, and Schnitzer Steel Industries and administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). The Regents of the University of California - Davis designed the port community-based gear recovery and recycling program and partnered with Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association (HFMA) to recover gear and run a subsidized gear recovery and buy-back program by hiring fishermen and reimbursing expenses.

What is the project and why is it important?
Derelict commercial and recreational fishing gear has both ecological and economic impacts. Derelict gear can: artificially alter seafloor and rocky reef habitats; entangle marine species including seabirds and marine mammals; create hazards for boaters, surfers, and divers; clutter legal fishing grounds, affecting the ability of fishermen to safely and effectively deploy legal gear; and continue to catch harvestable species resulting in lost catch opportunities and financial loss for fishermen. This project addressed the problem of derelict gear by engaging local fishermen in the development of a derelict gear recovery and recycling program.

Over the course of 20 field days between July and October of 2014, nine members of HMFA collected 666 derelict Dungeness crab traps out of Cresent City, Trinidad, and Eureka, CA. The fishermen who recovered the traps then “sold” the traps to HMFA, who then sold the recovered gear to the original owners at a fleet-agreed price per trap, depositing the proceeds into an escrow account to support the recovery and recycling program in future seasons. The project also installed a gear recycling bin in Cresent City, which filled to capacity within a week!

The success of this project led to additional funding through a NOAA Marine Debris Program removal grant to continue and expand the project to include work out of the Port of San Francisco, through a new partnership with the Crab Boat Owners Association. In addition, the California Dungeness Crab Task Force, after determining that the project as a whole was both successful and necessary, formed a working group led by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a proposal for implementing a completely self-sustaining gear retrieval program. The new project will help move forward on the goal to identify a permanent source of funding from within the fishery to run a derelict gear retrieval program in perpetuity.

For more information on this project, watch this video or read the NFWF project summary.