These plastic traps aren’t used commercially in Hawaii, but they’re washing ashore

Hagfish traps pose a great hazard to Hawaiian Monk Seals
Hagfish traps pose a great hazard to Hawaiian Monk Seals(Surfrider Foundation)
Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 7:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Surfrider Foundation is launching a new effort to get a dangerous form of marine pollution off Hawaiʻi shores and away from Hawaiian monk seals.

Hagfish traps are small basket-like plastic pieces that are used to catch hagfish and slime eels around the Pacific — but they’re not used commercially in Hawaiʻi.

“Every hagfish trap found on a Hawaiʻi beach has traveled thousands of miles on ocean currents to get here,” said Lauren Blickley, Surfrider Foundation’s Hawaiʻi Regional Manager. “There are no local boats fishing for hagfish. All of this pollution is coming from elsewhere.”

Hagfish are are sold almost exclusively to Korean markets, the foundation says, and they’re used for food or use in eel skin products such as wallets and boots.

Lately, the foundation says the traps have been washing up on coastlines around the islands. Some are getting stuck around the snouts of monk seals.

The Surfrider Foundation is asking members of the public to remove it if they come across it on beaches, and to report it by emailing

So far, about 3,000 hagfish traps have been removed on Kauai, Maui, Lanai and the Big island.

“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work in Hawaiʻi to reduce locally sourced plastic pollution like single-use plastics. Now it’s time to shift our focus to ocean-based pollution, particularly from commercial fisheries,” Blickley added.

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