California's rugged North Coast lays claim to one of the state's most valuable commercial fisheries: Dungeness crab. Millions of pounds of this meaty delicacy are pulled in each year from Morro Bay to the California-Oregon border, making for an industry valued at $32 million to $95 million per year.
But there's another catch: Many of the thousands of crab pots set in the sea don't make their way back.
Now, a group of fishermen collaborating with UC Davis are working to remove the lost crabbing gear from the ocean and sell it back to the original owners under what they hope will be an economically sustainable model for future cleanups.
"The most exciting thing about this project is that the fishermen themselves are taking the lead," said Kirsten Gilardi, director of the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project, a program of the SeaDoc Society, which is part of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center at the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine. "They are mobilizing the fishermen to participate, conducting all the transactions of funds and gear, and even realizing financial benefits for their hard work to clean the ocean."
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