Thursday, 20 May 2010

Crews Fish Out Lost Nets to Save Trapped Wildlife - USA Today

photo credit USA Today via Bryan DeLong

The problem with lost fishing gear? It keeps fishing.

"Ghost nets" are fishing nets that have been lost at sea due to accident, damage or storms. They drift freely through the water, capturing and killing any animal unfortunate enough to become entangled. The victims can be fish, sharks, invertebrates, sea turtles, and marine mammals such as seals and whales.

The cycle is potentially endless: Nets will be lost at sea, fish will become entangled and killed. The weight of all the dead biomass makes the net sink to the bottom, which attracts scavengers who may themselves become entangled. Once enough dead material has been eaten away, the net will rise up and begin to float through the sea again, capturing and killing indiscriminately. And over, and over. The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative in Washington State has retrieved 2,775 nets with close to 54,000 dead animals entangled. And that's just since 2002.

But it's not just nets - crab pots, fish traps and lobster gear gets lost too, and it continues to work. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission pulled over 9,000 crab pots from Chesapeake Bay last winter and found 9,800 animals trapped.

But there is a silver lining. Covanta Energy Corp., National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Washington (NFWF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Schnitzer Steel have come together to offer fisherman a free way to dispose of aged fishing gear responsibly. It is collected from 19 ports in seven states, and either recycled by Schnitzer or converted into power by Covanta's energy-from-waste facility, which I think is pretty cool.

Full article here (USA Today)

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