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Fishing up a Ton of Toilets

May 28, 2010

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Wednesday, May 26, veterinarian Kirsten Gilardi, director of the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project based at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's Wildlife Health Center, held a news conference in Marina del Rey to display fishermen's unusual catch off the Malibu coast: hundreds of discarded toilets recovered from a reef populated by fish, lobsters and sea urchins. The effort is the project's first cleanup of debris other than fishing gear. Gilardi was joined by three professional sea urchin fishermen and scuba divers from San Diego and Malibu who are contractors on this cleanup (and previous fishing-gear cleanups).

Toilets pulled from the sea floor off Point Dume on May 24 and 25 were unloaded in Marina Del Rey. The toiletswere lifted from a boat to the dock, by winch, for transport to a landfill. Once unloaded, the boat returned to the clean-up site for another day's work. About 300 tires were to be collected after the toilets and recycled.


Lost fishing gear can kill fish, birds, seals and sea lions, and damage the reefs and kelp beds that are the basis of the California coastal ecosystem. In 2005, the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project was established at UC Davis to enhance and restore underwater habitat for the benefit of marine animals and people.


Since May 2006, fishermen/divers working for the project have cleaned up nearly 17 tons of gear (mostly commercial nets and traps) from the waters around the California Channel Islands, and more than 1,400
pounds of recreational fishing gear off public fishing piers from Imperial Beach to Santa Cruz, including more than 1 million feet of fishing line.

The project has also installed recycling bins for unwanted hooks and lines on a dozen piers.

This toilet and tire recovery is the project's first cleanup of debris other than fishing gear. Expected to last at least a week, it began May 26 in waters 80 feet deep on a rocky reef about 1 1/2 miles east of Point Dume, on the edge of Point Dume Canyon. The area is home to many kinds of fish, as well as lobsters and sea urchins, and is under consideration by the state for designation as a marine protected area.

How and when the trash was dumped there is unknown.

On reconnaissance dives, the contract fishermen estimated there are about 300 toilets and 300 tires lying on a large stretch of reef.

This cleanup is expected to cost $30,000. It is funded by the State Wildlife Conservation Board and the California Coastal Commission. The Coastal Commission monies come from a fund established to mitigate impacts to the sea floor from a recent fiber-optic cable installation project off the Southern California coast.

The California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project is a program of the SeaDoc Society in the Wildlife Health Center at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. The overall fishing-gear project is currently funded by the State Wildlife Conservation Board. It was established with grants from the California Ocean Protection Council and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine  Debris Program, as well as philanthropic gifts from private donors.


Everyone can help clean up California's underwater coast by using the recycling bins and by reporting sightings of lost fishing gear or loss of gear to (888) 491-GEAR (calls are toll-free) or to

Media contacts:
* Kirsten Gilardi, DVM, DACZM , UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, (530) 304-1241,
* Sylvia Wright, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-7704,