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North Pacific Eel Trap Study

North Pacific Eel Trap Study

Marine debris likely a contributing cause in Kaua'i sperm whale death

WhaleOnBeach TrapsAndNet

Marine Mammals are entangled by eel trap parts

Young of the Hawaiian monk seals get funnel-like trap parts caught on their snouts, causing abrasion and infection. More importantly they are unable to feed, causing starvation, weakening, and predation by sharks. The monk seals are a highly endangered species, found only in Hawaii, and with only approximately 1,500 individuals remaining. Over the years 2000-2021, 15 seal pups were found entangled in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and the trap part removed. We must do something to reduce the number of entanglements. We can start by removing eel traps from the beaches before they hurt the pups.

TrapSeal Wounded seal b2

There are many different models of traps used in marine eel fisheries along the west coast of North America and in waters off Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and China. Trap entrances are attached to tubes, 5-gallon buckets, or 50-gallon barrels so that eels can enter the trap but not escape. Thousands of the eel trap entrance parts get detached from traps each year, float around in the North Pacific Ocean, and end up on Hawaiian shores. Some are whole and others break apart leaving the cone portion and pieces of plastic on the shore.





How can you help?

  1. Collect the trap parts whenever you see them. That way they can never entrap a monk seal pup, nor break up into smaller plastic pieces which other marine life could ingest.

  2. Email Surfrider at and tell us where/when you found the trap parts. Photos of what you collected, especially photos of the traps looking straight down each cone (see below), would be useful to us in identifying where the cone came from.


  3. Please report any entanglement or ingestion of hagfish trap parts to local authorities and email a copy of report to Dr. Berg (

Poster New English