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article imageAbandoned fishing gear harms wildlife

By Tim Sandle     Nov 10, 2015 in Environment
A new report examines the effects of "ghost fishing" on marine life. This is where fish, crabs and other marine life are drawn into nets and traps by the dead and decomposing bodies of other creatures.
The term "ghost fishing" refers to discarded fishing equipment. This can include pots, nets, tackle and other items. They pose dangers to marine life. With nets, for instance, nets, often nearly invisible in the dim light, can be left tangled on a rocky reef or drifting in the open sea.
The tangled fishing nets continue to catch fish, birds and turtles after they have been abandoned, either at sea or on land. One example is with large fish or cetaceans that approach a discarded net to feed on smaller entrapped fish and can also become ensnared.
In a special editorial for the journal Nature, it is pointed out that, with some fish species, up to 30 percent are lost through discarded fishing nets. Fishing equipment is either lost at sea or thrown away by those who fish.
As an example of the consequence of abandoned equipment, biologists Anderson and Alford have looked at the coastline of Louisiana. Here with around 1,800 crab fishers, each fisher loses approximately 250 traps each year. Each abandoned trap is estimated to kill one blue crab every two weeks. This equates to 2 million kilograms of crab meat, which is currently valued at $4 million.
In terms of a solution to ghost fishing, Eric Gilman of the Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu states that authorities’ can do more. Looking at 19 authorities he found that only four had policies in place to address ghost fishing. Those bodies without clear policies included the International Whaling Commission and the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization.
One body that is taking action is the U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The organization has a Marine Debris Program, which has been set-up alongside fishermen to provide places where fishing gear can be discarded safely and free of charge. To date, the program has collected some 2.1 million pounds of fishing gear from 41 locations across the U.S.
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