“Ghost nets” are an enduring hazard in the oceans

Deutsche Welle reports, 22nd May 2015: Ghost nets are fishing nets that have either been lost or discarded at sea. Small fish, which are usually the first to become trapped in their mesh, attract larger species and other marine predators including sharks, dolphins, sea turtles and even marine birds.

When the weight of their incidental catch gets too heavy, they sink to the bottom of the seabed, where the dead wildlife decomposes. When that happens, and the net is light enough, it rises back to the surface and everything starts over. It is a perpetual cycle of what is known as ghost fishing.

Even those that sink to the ocean floor empty, cause damage to vegetation, wildlife and reefs.

Ghost nets are a global phenomenon, but ocean currents sometimes mean the damage is done far from where the nets are lost or abandoned. The Maldives, for example, have banned any kind of net fishing within their territorial waters, yet Martin Stelfox’s Olive Ridley Project recorded 107 ghost nets on the Maldives during its first year of operation. 54 of them had trapped one or more sea turtles.

In many parts of the world, efforts are being made to collect ghost nets and other plastic garbage from the sea. Working with fishing boat crews and professional divers, WWF Germany has launched a campaign to collect abandoned nets from wrecks and the ocean floor in the Baltic Sea.

“We have groups working in Germany, Poland and Sweden,” Dr. Philipp Kanstinger, Program Officer Seafood Certifications at WWF Germany said. “But we are aiming to become active in other seas as well.”

Another group working to remove the hazards from our seas is ghostfishing — a volunteer group of technical divers. Based in the Netherlands, they have inspired other divers around the world to use their expertise to collect stray fishing gear.

Source: Deutsche Welle (DW), 22nd May 2015. For the full text, see www.dw.de/ghost-nets-pose-a-threat-to-marine-wildlife/a-18467374

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