Ghost fishing. Sounds intriguing, possibly cool. Sadly, it’s very far from that. If you were appalled by Been-Seen’s article about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, you’ll be incensed by this. In short, all over the world fishing vessels regularly abandon their damaged nets in the oceans. Out of sight, out of mind? Far from it. Those nets just keep on fishing…
It’s unclear what the fisherman think is going to happen to the nets. Disintegrate? Unfortunately they’re tough – and they don’t fall apart. Instead they linger in the water and keep doing what they were built to do – for a very long time. With no-one to pull them in. Amazingly, some are as big as 60 miles long. One net in Puget Sound, Washington, alone has been estimated to capture 30,000 marine mammals, fish and birds every year. They’ve also been known to choke coral reefs.
In 2006, a trawler by the name of Infidel sank off the coast of Santa Catalina Island, California. Down went its load of squid, plus a 9,000 pound fishing net. Down 150 feet below the surface went the hemp and polypropylene net and wrapped itself around the wreck.
The net was 40ft high and hundreds of feet long, and started trapping fish, sea lions, dolphins and even sharks. In January of this year, divers from the Ocean Defenders Alliance took knives to the net, uncovering a marine graveyard, and removed great chunks of net. By the end of the day they had removed about 1,500 pounds of it.
Luckily, they’re not alone in starting to combat this huge problem. Other groups like Hawaii-based Nets to Energy and New England’s Fishing for Energy are collecting abandoned nets and, impressively, converting them into fuel.
It’s a drop in the ocean for now, though, as there are thousands of these nets all over the world, and more being added all the time. RM