Ghost fishing

What is ghost fishing?

‘Ghost fishing is a term used for lost or abandoned gear which continues to fish’.

Ghost fishing can be detrimental for not only the species intended to be caught in it, however, many animals such as seals and dolphins get tangled in the nets, this can cause serious damage and can even kill them. Abandoned nets also cause damage to important marine habitats such as coral reefs and benthic organisms. The nets drag along the floor with currents, damaging delicate organisms such as soft corals and starfish. Ghost fishing also causes economic loss of target species, an estimated 90% of species caught in ghost nets are of commercial value.

Commonly it is the nets used passively that cause the great amounts of incidents, such as pots and fish traps, longlines and gill nets tend to trap and tangle animals. If the gear is floating near the surface it can also be a danger to boat users, as floating net can get caught in boat props.

Schemes and incentives are being put in place to encourage fisherman and boat users to hand into port lost and abandoned gear found in the ocean. Furthermore, biodegradable escape doors in fish traps and lobster pots, which degrade when the traps are in the water over a certain amount of time, are being developed so the traps become less harmful. However, this does not stop the problem of marine debris. The development of better sonar imagery will be to make it easy to find lost traps and nets, though this is still time consuming and costly. There is no simple and easy solution to ghost fishing, though if you are out at sea please collect any litter or ghost gear you come across. If you live in the Dingle area you can bring it into Dingle Marina Dive Centre and we would be more than happy to take it off your hands.

By Hannah Green, Marine Biologist and Divemaster in training

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