The Great Crab Pot Caper

by Clark Tate

Last fall wetsuit pioneer Jack O'Neill had an idea that would introduce kids participating in his O’Neill Sea Odyssey (OSO) program directly to critters cruising around the kelp forest floor: crab pots. Placed around the base of kelp beds, baited crab pots would capture unsuspecting sea life for the OSO class to pull up and examine on their sailing trip around the bay, then release unharmed. After the idea was approved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, OSO purchased two pots, placing them in the waters off Main Beach last March.

Magic ensued. The first creature plucked from the depths and placed in a mobile touch tank was an octopus (an octopus!). Pacific sea stars, decorator crabs and Bat stars followed. The kids loved it. Alas, one of the pots mysteriously disappeared in May. The second followed in June. Foul play is suspected.

Now the creative non-profit has an unconventional request. Bring back the enchantment. Donate a legal crab pot today! OSO promotes “ocean literacy” by taking 4th-6th grade students sailing to learn about marine biology, ecology, and navigation firsthand, for free. If the image of rowdy kids navigating a catamaran while sampling plankton and counting sea otters makes you smile, consider gifting a pot. And if you happen upon, or simply have, one of the two original pots (labeled #659643), be a hero and give it back.

For more information, contact Laura Barnes at 831.475.1561 or at

Photo of Benthic octopus (Benthoctopus sp.) and clam (Acesta mori) on the Davidson Seamount at 1461 meters depth by MBARI/NOAA.