It being October, I presumed that this concept would best make its appearance now. Most have already encountered this concept, without ever knowing. Ghost fishing is something that plagues every body of water on which commercial and recreational fishing occurs. This concept, like many others, takes one small thing and turns it in to one colossal impact.
Ghost fishing is what fishing gear does when it has been lost, dumped, or abandoned. The term derives itself from the resemblance to a “ghost.” It is not seen, and the effects are not known until after it is too late.
This conflict arises when nets, long lines, traps, or anything else that man uses to catch fish or marine organisms is abandoned or unattended. The gear will still catch or ensnare fish and organisms, those fish die, attract scavengers that get caught in the same net, and the cycle only escalates.
No one is profiting from these catches. Therefore, they are adversely affecting the already depleted stock of commercial fish. By simply leaving gear, for whatever reason, commercial fishermen are only hurting themselves. As many other environmental issues, we are self-sabotaging here.
Not only is this abandoned gear trapping and killing fish, it is also having a detrimental impact on others trying to navigate the same waters that the ghost gear is present in. By leaving this gear, it can become trapped in boat propellers, ensnare swimmers, and make overall navigation of the body of water difficult.
This gear is often lost during storms or in strong currents. It can also get abandoned by becoming entangled with traps set along the seafloor by other fishermen. As one could imagine, these nets can travel long distances before they eventually wash up on shore, if they ever do. According to one article, it is estimated that 95% of nets that wash ashore in Australia have come from other countries.
Though it may seem as though the legal system cannot do much to counteract this concept, they are trying. The United Nations has implemented education programs for fishermen and the fishing industry on this topic. On top of this, they have created incentives for fishermen to report lost equipment and retrieve the nets that they find at sea. Likewise, more stations for fishermen to dump damaged or recovered equipment are popping up along the shores of our oceans.
Individuals have also taken some matters in to their own hands. Divers and certain conservation groups have started their own local projects to help marine life combat this situation. Some groups are also working to convert recovered gear in to consumer goods such as: socks, carpet, and swimwear.
Like many other concepts that have become apparent in my research thus far, this problem is easy to “tip-toe” around. Most of this happens on the sea floor where most humans will not normally see or have to deal with it. Again, our out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality has gotten the best of us. This problem is somewhat invisible, but we cannot remain ignorant to the fact that it exists.