I have briefly mentioned ghost nets in my first blog post under Le Petit Bleu section, where I described some of the main problems that the Baltic Sea is facing. The issue is so serious however, that I decided to investigate it further bringing you some more details on the dangers to marine environment and biodiversity that ghost nets carry.
Ghost nets are essentially fishing nets that have been lost, abandoned or purposefully tossed away after they are no longer good to use. Since they are usually coated with plastic for enhanced durability, they are not degradable and therefore, become a part of plastic pollution problem worldwide. It is estimated that, in the Polish zone of the Baltic Sea only, we can find up to 800 tonnes of ghost nets, drifting in the open sea with the current or sitting on its bed. In both cases they pose a great, yet relatively unknown, threat to the marine habitat entangling numerous marine species including those endangered. The fishing nets from the Indian Ocean for example, often trap Olive Ridley sea turtles which, even if discovered, are in such a bad condition that they do not survive the rescue process. Entangled animals become an easy target for predators but also die out of dehydration and starvation.
Entrapped animals have also a negative impact on the local fisheries and consequently on the economy. Not only are fish lost to the ecosystem but they are also lost to the fishermen and to the market. Swedish scientists have proved that lost fishing nets continue to serve their original purpose from 20% of its initial catchability in the first 6 months after the net is lost, to 6% in the next two years (WWF). It is worth mentioning here, that the fishing nets covering the shipwrecks are catching fish all the time, posing an extra threat to the shipwreck tourists. Attracted by an outstanding number of sunken vessels sitting on the bottom of the Baltic Sea, divers might get tangled themselves since the ghost nets covering the shipwrecks are hardly visible.
Fortunately, both marine and ocean protection organizations as well as individual projects have taken efforts not only to research the above problem but also to become its solution. Below are the two examples that I came across while doing my research that really amazed me. First, taking place in Poland and supported by World Wide Fund (WWF), is actually the biggest initiative of this kind to be held globally. It involves fishermen from the whole Pomeranian region (North of Poland), scouring through the Baltic waters in search of lost fishing gear. Along with the ghost nets, the fishermen catch a great number of scrap metal and other junk attached to the fishing nets such as telecommunication cables which are a common find during the search. Please watch the below video documenting this amazing expedition!
On the other side of the world, The Olive Ridley Project aims to clean oceans from the lost fishnets, rescue injured turtles and educate the world about the danger of ghost nets and its direct impact on the marine life. It was founded in 2013 to analyze and document the effects of the lost fish nets after a large number of olive ridley turtles were found entangled in them in the Maldives. Up till now they removed 1,300+ ghost nets and other fishing gear fragments from the Indian Ocean. While doing so they found and reported 601 entangled turtles. 48 has been treated in the rescue center and 22 released (Olive Ridley Project), with the rest presumably dead or beyond rescue. I strongly support their mission and encourage you to watch the video below!
To summarize this blog post, I wanted to say that I am very proud of my own country not only because they launched the first ghost net search of this kind globally but mostly because they set an example of how one good cause can bring people across all industries, from different backgrounds to do something amazing TOGETHER. Uniting to save lives, protect the environment and literally, change the world around us for better might be the most rewarding thing the humanity is capable of doing. We have all the power to protect our planet and create the new reality. Let's use it wisely.