NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

“What on Earth?” ENTRY #003: Eel trap clips (by Chelsea Thomas, guest blogger)

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This month’s entry was written by Chelsea Thomas, IS489 (University of Hawaii) intern with the NOAA Marine Debris Program. Information was compiled and reviewed by NOAA MDP staff with assistance from Seba Sheavly, Sheavly Consultants.

Location Debris Found: Midway Atoll, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, HI, USA

These pieces of marine debris (photo above) were found washed ashore on Midway Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Are you wondering “What on Earth” are those?  While we are not 100% confident on the identification, reliable sources believe the pieces to be clips for eel traps and “multi-traps” used by certain fisheries.

The lid of an eel trap is a separate funnel-shaped piece that serves as the entrance into the trap. Two plastic clips are used to fasten the lid to the eel trap. The pointed end of the funnel has flexible plastic fingers that allow the eel to easily enter the trap. Once inside, the fingers naturally remain closed, preventing the eel from escaping. When the fisherman collects the trap he unclips the funnel to remove the eel from the trap.

From a website selling fishing equipment.

A “multi-trap” (photo below) is a trap design that has been used for catching octopus, lamprey, hagfish, and even lobster. These traps have similar clips to those of the eel traps shown above.

From a website selling fishing equipment.

As mentioned, while we believe that this debris can be identified as eel trap or “multi-trap” clips, we cannot be completely certain. If you have any more information about this marine debris item, please contact us at

For a video of the traps in use, please visit

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