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Marine animals at risk from ripped out lobster traps on the Santa Barbara County Coast

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The winter storms have been ripping out lobster traps in near shore waters leaving them tossed in the waves or on the beach.  That creates many hazards to marine life and the public in and out of the water.

The traps are now largely twisted pieces of metal and not reusable.  They have ropes which are the cause of concern for groups including Heal the Ocean (HTO.

Harry Rabin with Heal the Ocean said, "it gets tangled up around a marine mammal a seal whale a shark anything that swims around out there.  anything that swims around out there can get entangled in this.   and this is extremely strong".  

HTO is taking part in a rapid response to get the traps now washed up on area beaches.   One location is between Hendry's Beach and the Hope Ranch Beach. They have also been to several other sites including West Beach, East Beach and down to Carpinteria.

Over 200 traps have been found.

More cleanup work is taking place this week with the help of workers from the crew at Earthcomb, which often cleans up homeless camps.

Some of the most difficult traps had to be dug up with shovels and other hand tools. Kory McCarthy with Earthcomb said he hit, "small rocks about  the size of softballs.  A ton of them right there. It is hard for us to use the shovels."

Andrew Velikeanje is the Earthcomb founder and said, "today was the perfect time with the low tide, all the stars aligned so we come in and swiftly do it with that short time window that we have.  The goal is to get it done with no injuries."

The traps will be put in a dumpster.  That will be delivered to the harbor near the boat launch ramp. The Waterfront Department says for the next 48 hours, those fishing for lobster will have a chance to come over to retrieve their traps which generally have an ID marking.

Rabin pointed to one and said the tag "has been issued to them and it helps the Department of Fish and Wildlife know who the owner is of these."

It took several trips to load a 4 x 4 full of the cages and clear the beaches. 

One fisherman lost most of his 300 traps.

"Quite a few of the traps that we did find on the beach had moved  as far as three to four miles away from their original location," said Ben Hyman. He has had many impacts from the weather. It was not just the loss of traps but also the closure of the harbor by sand.

Going forward, a prevention plan is also in the works with the fishing industry.

Rabin said, "we want to work with them (fishermen) to improve their methods so we don't have all these ropes and lines and traps coming to shore. They've got a lot of viable solutions that we want to hear about and create some kind of task for to address this problem so it doesn't happen again."

For more information go to : Heal the Ocean or Commercial Fishing Santa Barbara.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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