A monk seal is entangled in a hagfish trap. PHOTO BY THE HAWAII LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES DEPARTMENT.

HONOLULU – The Hawaiian chapters of the Surfrider Foundation are launching the North Pacific Hagfish Trap Project to reduce the number of hagfish traps washed up on the coast of Hawaii.

Hagfish traps are used to catch a primitive eel-like animal known as the “slimy eels” Where “Hagfish”. The animals are sold almost exclusively in Korean markets for food or use in “eel skin” products such as wallets and boots.

“Every hagfish trap found on a Hawaiian beach has traveled thousands of miles on ocean currents to get here,” said Lauren Blickley, Hawaii regional manager for Surfrider Foundation.

“There are no local boats fishing for hagfish. All this pollution comes from elsewhere.

Lost and discarded fishing gear is a major contributor to plastic pollution on Hawaiian beaches and is a major threat to marine and coastal ecosystems. Yet given its international reach, vast geographic scope, and difficulties in tracing the source of gear, abandoned fishing gear remains a difficult problem.

Hagfish traps are one of the many types of commercial fishing gear that pollutes Hawaii’s shores.

“The fact that the fishery is quite small and that the gear is easily identifiable makes it the perfect type of gear to target for this type of trans-Pacific collaboration” Surfrider Foundation Kauai Chapter scientist Dr Carl Berg said on this project.

“Our first step is to determine which fishery the traps come from in Hawaii. Then we can start working directly with fishermen and fisheries managers to develop equitable solutions. “

This year, the Kauai Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and partner organizations Hawaii Wildlife Fund, SHARKastics and Pulama Lana’i have already removed more than 3,000 hagfish traps from the shores of Kauai, the island of Hawaii, Maui and Lanai.

A collaboration has also been set up with OSEAN.net in Korea. Not only are the traps contributing to the global plastic pollution pandemic, they are also responsible for harming marine animals, especially the endangered Hawaiian monk seal pups.

Young Hawaiian monk seals can catch the pieces of the funnel-shaped trap in their snouts, causing abrasions, infections, starvation, and possibly death.

Over the past 20 years, 13 baby seals and a year old have been found entangled in hagfish traps in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This number of actual monk seal entanglements in hagfish traps is probably an underestimate.

Surfrider Foundation encourages beach clean-up organizations and individuals to document when removing hagfish traps from the beach and to email [email protected] Information on where to send the hagfish traps will be provided by email. Blickley noted that hagfish traps are more likely to be found on shores facing the wind.

The North Pacific Hagfish Trap Project not only represents one of the first transpacific partnerships between community organizations, fishermen and fisheries managers to reduce pollution from abandoned fishing gear in Hawaii, but it can also serve as a replicable model for future international efforts aimed at other types of abandoned fishing gear reduction.

“We have done a huge job in Hawaii to reduce local plastic pollution like single use plastics. Now is the time to focus on ocean pollution, especially from commercial fishing ”, Blickley said.

For more information, contact Blickley at [email protected] or visit hawaii.surfrider.org/hagfish.

To report hagfish traps, email [email protected] For more information on the Surfrider Foundation Hawaii region, visit hawaii.surfrider.org.

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