The North Pacific Hagfish Trap Project is an international, collaborative effort to develop options aimed at reducing the number of lost and discarded hagfish traps and thus their impact on Hawaiian Monk Seals. It may also serve as a replicable model for future efforts aimed at derelict fishing gear reduction.

The Problem


Lost and discarded fishing gear is a primary contributor to plastic pollution on Hawaiʻi beaches and poses a major threat to marine and coastal ecosystems. Yet given its international scope, large geographical range, and difficulties in tracing the source of gear, derelict fishing gear remains a challenging problem.

Hagfish traps represent one of the many types of commercial fishing gear that pollute Hawaiʻi coastlines. Compared to other types of fishing gear, however, the hagfish trap’s distinctive cone shaped funnels are easily identifiable and originate from small fisheries on the west coast of North America and in east Asia, mainly Korea. The animals are sold almost exclusively to Korean markets for food or use in “eel skin” products such as wallets and boots. 


The Solution


The North Pacific Hagfish Trap Project is a collaborative effort to develop options aimed at reducing lost and discarded hagfish traps and thus their impact on Hawaiian Monk Seals. It may also serve as a replicable model for future efforts aimed at derelict fishing gear reduction.

The project’s primary goals are:

  • Identify the source of hagfish traps washing up on Hawaiʻi coastlines.
  • Calculate the number of hagfish traps on Hawaiʻi, Korea, and North American coastlines.
  • Collaborate with hagfish fisheries on options to reduce the number of lost or discarded hagfish traps


Get Involved


Surfrider Foundation is encouraging beach cleanup organizations and individuals to get involved by:

1. Removing any hagfish traps you find on the beach.
2. Keeping the traps and contacting hagfish@surfrider.org. Include a picture of each trap and the number of traps collected.

Information about where to send hagfish traps will be provided via email.