Saturday, September 29, 2012


I spent a couple of hours last week learning all there is to know about commercial lobster traps. At least my brain and notepad are so packed with information that it feels like I learned everything; in reality you could write whole books about this subject. (A big thank you to Don at C & M Wire Products for spending his morning educating me. He also referred me to the president of the California Lobster Trap Fisherman's Association, but first I have to finish digesting all of Don's information!)

Obviously, marine debris is a huge problem, globally. I also attended a lecture on the Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge floating accumulation of mostly plastic debris in the Pacific Gyre. If you've heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch, maybe you've seen this photo? (Which is NOT a photo of the Pacific Garbage Patch!)

In reality, this picture was taken somewhere in or around the Manila harbor, but on the world wide web it's often wrongly attributed to the Pacific Garbage Patch. And while microplastics, floating debris, and the Pacific Garbage Patch are tremendous problems that need resolution, it's accumulations of trash in harbors - such as that pictured above - which relate to lobster traps. Which in turn relates to my art-making at Cabrillo: one of my projects may be to attempt a large sculpture re-using materials from lobster traps. Because, sadly, lobster trap debris is a typical feature of Cabrillo National Monument. Although they don't float, lost lobster traps frequently do wash up on the rocky coast of Point Loma, and at low tide are caught on riprap. Visitors don't often see them for several reasons:  areas where currents tend to deposit them aren't areas readily visible from public overlooks; because they don't float, they tend to be uncovered only at the lowest tides, which many times occur during hours the park is closed; and those times when it is uncovered, NPS rangers and the Coast Guard clean it up pretty quickly.

It's the commercial traps that mostly wash up, not recreational traps - which are a different type of material. Commercial traps are big, bulky boxes assembled from a heavy wire mesh that's coated first with zinc, then powder-coated with PVC. (The zinc and plastic protect the metal mesh from corrosion; traps in annual use last a number of years.) The mesh panels are assembled into compartmentalized boxes, using galvanized metal clips.  Right now my difficulty is in removing the galvanized clips, so that I can use the panels in making a sculpture. Since the clips are applied very tightly with a pneumatic gun, it's proving to be a problem...a bigger problem than I'd anticipated.

More about marine debris later...

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