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What Is Ghost Fishing? - Effects of Abandoned Fishing Nets

Updated: Apr 12, 2020

No, this is not a past time in the afterlife. Ghost fishing is a real danger lurking in our waterways and just like ghosts, most people don't encounter it first hand. However, there are people that do see ghost fishing and its devastation leaves a sense of dread similar to that of seeing the undead. Learn More Here.

Sea bird tangled in ghost fishing gear
The detrimental effects of ghost gear to sea birds

Ghost fishing is defined as the aftermath of lost or discarded fishing gear. Fishing gear is designed to catch fish and the very best gear assures no fish or crustacean gets loose. When controlled by a person for sport or food this is all well and good, but the problem arises when people step out of the picture.

What Are The Effects Of Ghost Fishing?

Nets, fishing line, lobster pots, stray hooks. They can all continue catching marine life long after we stop using them, and without human guidance they kill aimlessly. In ponds, stray lines can tangle up anything from birds to beavers and when we look at the ocean the scale of this problem only grows.

How Large Are Commercial Fishing Nets?

The ocean is so seemingly vast that it is hard to believe that anything could harm it, and this is especially true when the root of the damage lies deep beneath the surface. Commercial fishing nets are giant. To be exact most commercial fishing nets range from 75 feet to more than 30 miles in length. For perspective the smallest nets are equivalent to a stack of 4 giraffes and the largest are big enough to cover 3 of Disney World’s 4 parks! It may sound impossible to lose something this large, but storms out at sea can be violent enough to cause such a loss and other times they are simply discarded into the ocean like a free landfill.

Seal stuck in abandoned fishing net
Abandoned Commercial Fishing Net Traps A Seal

Now consider that many of these nets are made of Nylon or polyesters that could take hundreds of years to break down fully. Over time an army of these nets have collected and they constantly roam the ocean, trapping sea life, devastating fragile coral reefs, and even damaging boats.

How Do We Fight An Enemy So Large And At The Same Time, Nearly Invisible?

The answer to that question comes in many forms.

NASA and NOAHH have explored ways of tracking lost nets via satellite or a buoy tracker system. NOAHH has also implemented ways for fishermen to discard nets free of charge to dissuade them from using the ocean as a free landfill. Learn More. There are other organizations like Ghost Diving that exist solely to face the dilemma of ghost nets.

Ghost Diving is a non-profit organization that organizes the removal of ghost gear and they work with the company BRACENET to recycle and upcycle some of the gear into stylish bracelets as a way to raise awareness about ghost fishing. If you are interested in assisting GhostDiving or purchasing a BRACENET we recommend checking out their websites.

There is a lot of ghost gear still out there so if you see a manageable amount do your best to discard it properly and if it looks too big to handle contact your local wildlife protective services in your area to spread awareness, properly dispose of fishing gear, and help fight against ghost fishing!

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