Ghost Nets are fishing nets that have been discarded, lost or abandoned at sea. These nets, when unattended are responsible for taking the lives of millions of marine organisms.
The nets drift with oceanic currents, and their effects are seen far from their origin. Furthermore, they entangle live coral, strangle reefs, and may introduce parasites or invasive species into the reef environment.
In Pondicherry, over the last few decades, unsustainable fishing has left the bottom of the ocean bare.
Trawlers drag nets behind them which catch a lot of fish. These nets are dragged either mid-water or across the bottom. The amount of useless by-catch is quite high, and they wreck reefs because they often snag on the bottom.
Fishermen also deploy gill-nets, a net wall suspended by floats on the surface, or anchored to the bottom. These nets are meant to catch fish by the gills and are very effective at their purpose.
To offset the negative effects of these fishing practices, we built artificial reefs. The marine life in Pondy is now thriving since there’s shelter for them to multiply.
Ghost Nets are responsible for an estimated 10% reduction in fishing catch.
Ghost nets are formed multiple ways. Nets may get stuck on a reef or get caught in a violent current. In addition, smaller nets might get cut off by passing vessels or get dumped after a few uses.
They get heavy due to the sheer amount of catch in them and sink to the bottom. Once there, other organisms feed on the trapped fish while they decompose. Hence the net gets light again and floats back up. This cycle continues for years since modern nets are quite durable.
These nets trap fish and attract their predators, who also get entangled or mistake it for food. Struggling fish injure themselves on the net, get caught in hooks or get suffocated by it. Some species need to make it to the surface periodically to breathe – quite problematic with a 100kg net in tow.
Ghost Nets have severely decreased the stocks of many species, some of which are already endangered.
In November 1989, after 28 years, the Berlin Wall fell. People who weren’t born when it came up were the ones that tore it down. The Wall was everyone’s problem, and standing by waiting for it to come down never helped.
The health of the ocean affects us all directly, and no one else is going to deal with it. And it’s high time we did.
Every piece of plastic removed from the ocean makes it cleaner. Every net removed from the ocean makes it safer. Our efforts will help maintain the ecology of the realm we love! As divers working together, we can accomplish a whole lot more than we would individually.
Project AWARE works to reduce underwater impacts of marine debris and prevent trash from entering the ocean in the first place. Their Dive Against Debris initiative has scuba divers recovering and reporting types and quantities of debris found on the ocean floor.
As Scuba Divers, we have the unique opportunity and skill set to safeguard our oceans. Every dive you are very likely to across some form of debris. Take a couple of minutes to SAFELY remove and recover any debris you find. Don’t attempt to remove nets without the right tools, and a responsible dive buddy!
Here’s a Turtle rescue from The Wall, Pondicherry:
As Divers, we have the opportunity and skill set required to tackle the issue. Let’s stand together for a clean and healthy Ocean!
Until next time,
That’s all, folks!