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Ghost nets: silent killers in the oceans

Across the world’s oceans, a silent menace is threatening a host of marine species. Underwater, unaccounted for and often unseen, these inanimate killers lurk in the oceans, wreaking havoc on marine life.

Shark entangled in a ghost net. Maldives

Photo: Prodivers Maldives.Olive Ridley Project

Marine turtles entangled in a ghost net

Photo: Dave Bretherton.Olive Ridley Project

Olive Ridley turtles trapped in ghost net

Photo: Olive Ridley Project

The threat comes in the form of ‘ghost’ nets – lost, abandoned or discarded fishing nets that are drifting in the ocean currents, ensnaring, harming and killing wildlife.

These floating nets trap other nets, plastic and organic debris, as well as a range of fish, turtles, seabirds and marine mammals.

Predatory species like turtles are lured into the nets by the fish already caught and then become entangled themselves. Often unable to break free from the mesh, they drown or slowly starve to death. The nets are made out of strong plastic-type material and persist in the water for a very long time, killing and killing again.

But the problem has been identified and action is being taken thanks to people like Martin Stelfox. On the Maldivian resort island where he worked as a marine biologist, Martin found an olive ridley turtle entangled in a ghost net, still alive but with its two front flippers missing. Because the Maldives bans the use of fishing nets and olive ridley turtles are a rare sight, the ghost net was obviously from further afield.

Having heard of several other similar finds, Martin decided to act and started a volunteer-based effort – the Olive Ridley Project - to tackle the problem of ghost nets in the Indian Ocean.

In partnership with IUCN Maldives Marine , the project organises and trains volunteers to look for and report ghost nets, to rescue entangled wildlife and collect the data needed to pinpoint the origin of the nets. This will help address the problem at its source: preventing the loss of nets, recycling old ones and promoting the use of more environmentally friendly fishing material.

Ghost nets are pushed across the Indian Ocean by East-West/West-East currents – depending on the monsoon – and many end up on the islands of the Maldives archipelago which spreads along a North-South line. Within one year, volunteers removed over 100 ghost nets and recorded 140 trapped turtles, four reef mantas, three sharks and one sperm whale, as well as fish. Also collected were clues to help trace the nets’ path, for example plastic bottles used as flotation devices with labels showing their country of origin.

Thanks to funding from Global Blue , the project was able to develop material to raise awareness about this poorly known problem, protocols for monitoring and rescuing entangled wildlife, and a database into which volunteers could input their data. The data collected has been shared with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) to help tackle the ghost net problem on a global scale.

Watch the video to see how you too can help!

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Fishery: Stronger regulations against ghost nets

According to a new report from Greenpeace, released last week, an estimated 640 000 tonnes of ghost gear enters the ocean every year, which is estimated to make up 10 % of the plastic waste in our oceans.

ghostnet

Ghost nets are abandoned or lost fishing gear, especially old fishing nets and trawls, made of nylon or other synthetic materials that are difficult to break down. The ghost nets continue to fish for decades, affecting fish stocks, is an animal abuse and an unforgivable waste of our common natural resources. November 6, Greenpeace released the report “Ghost gear – the abandoned fishing nets haunting our oceans” , where they demand a stronger regulatory framework against ghost nets in international waters. The amount of fishing gear, including so-called ghost nets, equals 50 000 double-deckers being dumped into the sea (e.g. 640 000 tonnes of fishing gears). The report shows that over six percent of the longlines remain in the sea as waste. Furthermore, it says that 300 sea turtled were found dead by one and the same fishing net, in the sea off Mexico in 2018. The ghost nets have a terrible impact on marine wildlife. Ghost nets are also a major problem in the Baltic Sea. In early 2010, BalticSea2020 started a series of projects aimed at highlighting the problem and showing that these nets can be retrieved. On the one hand, a collaboration was initiated with underwater photographer Joakim Odelberg to document and highlight the problem with ghost nets. Two films were produced and aired in Swedish broadcast (Svt Vetenskapens värld and TV4). In the same time an action-oriented project started carried out by WWF Poland in co-operation with the Lithuanian Fund For Nature, aimed at identifying and retrieving ghost nets from the bottoms and wrecks of the Baltic Sea. It was estimated that each year approximately 10 thousand of nets (in between 52 to 95 tonnes) are lost or abandoned in the Baltic Sea, each year. In addition, approximately 450 tonnes of fishing nets are entangled on ship wrecks in the Polish Economic Zone. Within the project, methods were established for retrieving the ghost nets and a total of six tonnes of nets were cleared form the se in 2011. In 2012, the project continued into a second phase where Polish and Lithuanian fishermen retrieved nearly 22 000 kilos of lost fishing gear. Its total length amounted to approximately 135 kilometres – a distance equal to the distance form Warsaw to Łódż! Both projects were documented in reports distributed to the media and stakeholders in the region. In addition to these activities, an interactive map of “hooks” in the Baltic Sea was created, indicating the locations of shipwrecks and other objects remaining on the sea bottom that constitute obstacles for trawling. (Visit the Polish website sieciwidma.wwf.pl , to see what the map looks like.) The projects on ghost nets have touch on and contributed to actions. The problem is noticed and several organizations are working to retrieve the old ghost nets, and to prevent the gear from falling into the ocean from the beginning. Today, measures are also being taken to reduce ghost nets in the Baltic Sea, in the Good Environmental Status (GES) of the EU's marine waters by 2020 ( Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management ).

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Ghost Nets will be Cleaned Out of Swedish Waters

At ten locations around Sweden’s coasts, clean-up operations are to be carried out to collect the fishing gear that has been lost in lakes and seas, The Maritime and Water Agency (Hav) states in a press release.

– This will be the largest coordinated effort of its kind in Sweden and affects both the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and Lake Vänern, says Charlotta Stadig, investigator at Hav, in a comment.

Authorities, municipalities and professional fishermen must work systematically to remove so-called ghost nets – lost fishing nets and other gear left on the bottom. The tools risk becoming death traps for marine life and litter the environment, according to Hav.

On the west coast, the authority estimates that around 3,000 tins are lost each year.

The efforts will last until the turn of the year and will be financed with EU money via the Swedish Agency for Agriculture and with money from Hav.

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Documentary on ghost nets in the world of science (svt2).

On February 10, you can see Joakim Odelbergs and Leofilms documentary on ghost nets. The documentary airs at 20:00 in the World of Science (SVT2). Ghost nets are discarded fishing gear that continues to catch fish for decades, affecting the size of the fish population, causing suffering to wildlife and unforgivable destruction of our common natural resources.

View the trailer below. Also read more about the ghost nets in the project "Ghosts of the Baltic Sea" .

Odelberg trailer Vetenskapens vrld

Trailer: Ghost nets in the World of Science.

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Are there ghost nets in Finnish waters?

Ghost nets refer to nets and other gear lost by fishermen that fish by themselves in seas and bodies of water. They are harmful to animals and constitute a part of the plastic problem in the seas. The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and the Finnish Fishermen’s Association (SAKL) have started to investigate the ghost net situation in the Bothnian Sea.

SAKL-1_HAAMUVERKOT_556x303

Ghost nets are not a new phenomenon. Globally, a discussion on the topic arose in the 2000s due to the plastic problem in the seas, but the phenomenon itself originates from the mid-1900s. At that time, the natural fibres used to manufacture fishing gear began to be replaced with synthetic materials, such as nylon. The durability of the fishing gear improved, but this also created a problem with ghost nets.

Fishing gear made out of various plastics disintegrates extremely slowly in the sea. It has been estimated that ghost nets constitute one tenth of all plastic waste that ends up in the seas globally, which makes them the most significant type of underwater plastic waste.

Lost catches

Ghost nets do not only catch fish. In addition to fish, sea birds get tangled in fishing gear found in shallow waters and seals get caught in gear connected to wreckage. All these species caught by ghost nets have been found in the Baltic Sea, too. The catch of the ghost nets does not feed humans or animals; instead, it is simply lost.

Ghost nets keep on fishing for a long time, typically several months, but in the depths of the oceans of the world, they may go on fishing for years. In time, the nets become weighed down by the catch they accumulate and sink to the bottom. In addition, the nets become covered in slime, which reduces their ability to fish.

No assessment of the location, amount or effects of ghost nets has been made before in Finland. This year, SYKE and the Finnish Fishermen’s Association (SAKL) have started a project to find out the amount and location of ghost nets. The study is being carried out in the Bothnian Sea, where commercial fishing is active and vital.

“There is no information available about the location or amount of ghost nets in our waters, and we cannot reliably estimate how much harm they are causing. Currently, no organised efforts have been made to collect ghost nets, and people are not informed about the issue,” says Head of Unit Mika Raateoja from SYKE.

SAKL_8_HAAMUVERKOT_556x303

The goal is to develop methods for collecting ghost nets suited to the conditions in Finnish territorial waters. The project is implemented in cooperation with professional fishermen, who are also currently collecting rubbish and ghost nets from the sea. More accurate information about the situation in the Bothnian Sea will be available in late summer, when the collection of ghost nets with a fishing vessel begins.

Based on initial results, commercial fishing does not currently seem to be a significant source of ghost nets in Finland. “Here in Finland, net fishing in the open sea areas has ended in practice, and in that sense, professional fishing does not produce ghost nets. In contrast, there is plenty of unused fishing gear found on land. For example, fishing gear that is broken, against current regulations or otherwise unusable has accumulated in fishing harbours,” says Kim Jordas , the CEO of Finnish Fishermen’s Association (SAKL).

The goal is to recycle net material

Fishing gear mainly consists of various plastics and metals. As such, they are valuable material for recycling. The Kapyysi project develops waste management and the collection of fishing gear. Waste management should be planned carefully and recycling should be organised so that the costs do not exceed the benefits. “The waste management of fishing gear should be organised so that plastics could be recycled as material, but if this isn’t possible, they should at least be used as energy. We are creating an action plan for coastal municipalities on how to collect fishing gear for the needs of the circular economy,” Raateoja says.

There is no information available about how many ghost nets can be found in inland waters, nor about how much recreational fishing contributes to the amount of nets. For example, people with holiday cottages have plenty of old nets in storage, and they should also be recycled.

More information

• Head of Unit Mika Raateoja , Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), tel. +358 295 251 536, email: [email protected]

• Kim Jordas , CEO, Finnish Fishermen’s Association (SAKL), tel. +358 400 720 690, email: [email protected]

• Communication Specialist Eija Järvinen , Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), tel. +358 295 251 242, email: [email protected]

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Ghost nets: Tackling a silent killer of the seas

  • Published 18 October 2019

Jannis Athinaios fishes in the South Euboean Gulf

Jannis Athinaios is preparing to sell his merchandise, an assortment of fresh red mullets, red snappers, white sea bream and blunt-snouted mullets, at the sun-washed port of Nea Makri, a coastal town 25km northeast of Athens.

For 31 years he has been fishing in the South Euboean Gulf, mainly at night, heading to Nea Makri's port at noon to sell his catch, either to local restaurants or his many loyal clients.

"I use small nets," Mr Athinaios says. "Occasionally, I lose some of them, but nothing special - about 10m (32ft) per year, which costs me about €20," he says.

But imagine those lost nets scaled-up to the size of the giant nets used by ocean going trawlers.

"These big boats use nets over 45m in height and 800m in length, which may cost €5,000-€6,000 or much more," says Mr Athinaios.

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When those nets get lost at sea, they become ghost nets, an expense for fishermen and deadly for marine life.

It's hard to measure the scale of the problem, but in 2009 the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimated that 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear was lost or discarded in the seas over year.

In 2015 a single mission by WWF in the Baltic recovered 268 tonnes of nets, ropes and other material.

And because nets are made of nylon, or other tough synthetic compounds, they can survive in the oceans for decades, catching, injuring and killing all sorts of marine life.

The ghost nets also damage coral, breaking their brittle skeletons, destroying their soft tissue, and killing large chunks of the reef.

Nets on the sea bed

To help tackle the problem British, Portuguese, and Spanish organisations and universities, and figures from the European fishing industry, are co-operating on a project called NetTag.

It aims to promote new technologies that cut down on the number of lost nets, and to educate fishermen about new practices to limit losses.

Its key technology is a special underwater acoustic transponder - the NetTag - that fishermen can attach to their nets and other gear.

NetTag's transponders work using sound waves, which travel efficiently over long distances under water.

When the surface vessel sends out a signal the transponder replies and by calculating the time difference between the signal and response the net can be located.

"For an estimated cost of about €300 each, NetTag can help fishermen safeguard assets costing thousands of euros," says Jeff Neasham, an electrical engineer at Newcastle University and lead researcher of the project.

The NetTag

Dr Neasham helped design the transponders, which are about the size of a matchbox.

They have similar batteries to smartphones, but use circuitry which requires very low power, which means they can operate for many months attached to a net.

"These transponders definitely work. The technology is practical," says Brian von Herzen, an environmentalist and executive director of the Climate Foundation, a non-profit organisation tackling food security.

However, he is not certain that the NetTag will be attractive to the operators of big fishing boats, who might not want to waste time retrieving lost nets.

Mr von Herzen says that even if the new transponder allows fish boats to locate lost nets, they still might spend half a day recovering the equipment. That time could be more valuable than the price of the net.

Mr Athinaios finds NetTag environmentally very promising, but is also sceptical whether it will modify his fellow professionals' behaviour.

Since 2009 a European Community Council Regulation has required fishing boats to recover any lost fishing gear as soon as possible - carrying equipment on board for this purpose - or else potentially face harsh fines, and ultimately confiscation of the vessel or fishing gear.

"Yet, nothing has changed," says Mr Athinaios.

"The law is not enforced. Most of us have equipment like GPS and plotters. Big boats have advanced equipment and crews of divers to track lost gear down, but they don't do it because they can make €6,000, the cost say, of a lost net on any given day."

Jeff Neasham, an electrical engineer at Newcastle University

Dr Neasham says that if fishermen have the precise coordinates to retrieve a net via GPS, then they are not really searching for a ghost net.

"We are talking about situations where gear has been moved by storms, broken away from moorings, or caught by other vessels and cut loose," Dr Neasham says.

"The skipper of our research boat has been involved in many attempts to retrieve lost gear and, even when they are confident they know where a ghost net is, the net can prove to be several hundred metres off where they finally manage to hook it."

He is convinced that NetTag will save lots of time and money.

Mr von Herzen thinks the solution is to reward fishermen for retrieving ghost nets.

In regions like Europe where the fisherman's catch is capped, he suggests that for each net recovered that cap could be raised.

"In this case, these low-cost transponders would come in handy," Mr von Herzen says.

Fisherman off the coast of Greece

"We should propose these revised regulations, and have a period of public comment, in which we would have town meetings and discussions - instead of lectures - with the fishermen," he adds.

He thinks it could also change the culture of fishing. "They would view themselves as stewards of the ocean," suggests Mr von Herzen.

Over the next months, the NetTag project will conduct full field trials with fishermen in Portugal and Spain, who will be the first to try out the technology before it hits the markets.

Dr Neasham is confident the endeavour will do away with the "epidemic" of ghost nets.

"We should be expecting 90% of lost fishing gear to be recovered in the developed world over the next 10 years if the project becomes mainstream."

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Ghost Nets and Dive Bar at Vrak

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Vrak – Museum of Wrecks

Join the pleasant gathering at vrak: museum of wrecks,  where you can enjoy good food and drinks and learn more about an important issue – ghost nets. the autumn dive pub at vrak is a must for those interested in diving.

In the Baltic Sea and the world’s other oceans, so-called ghost nets (nets and fishing gear that lie as debris on the seabed) pose a significant environmental threat to both historic wrecks and marine life.

Hélène Hagerman, Vice Chairman of Global Underwater Explorer, GUE Sweden, who has worked on Operation Ghost Net, will come and talk about the efforts to remove ghost nets and promote keeping our seas clean. The evening’s moderator is Vrak’s marine archaeologist, Marco Alí.

Dive pub this evening!

The museum, café, and bar are open until 9 PM. Welcome!

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Negative effects of ghost nets on Mediterranean biodiversity

  • Published: 13 October 2022
  • Júlia Fernandes Perroca   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-7274-3941 1 ,
  • Tommaso Giarrizzo   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-5116-5206 2 , 3 ,
  • Ernesto Azzurro   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-9805-3164 4 ,
  • Jorge Luiz Rodrigues-Filho   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-3681-9806 5 , 6 ,
  • Carolina V. Silva   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-3385-1915 7 ,
  • Marlene S. Arcifa   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-0010-9263 8 &
  • Valter M. Azevedo-Santos   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-8986-6406 2 , 7 , 9  

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Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing nets (i.e., ghost nets) strongly affect biodiversity in marine ecosystems of numerous localities around the world. Based on videos posted by different people in YouTube™, we accessed the negative effects of these gears in the Mediterranean Sea. We identified 86 species, from 12 groups, in 12 countries within the Mediterranean region (including in the Africa, Europe, and Asia). Of the species entangled in ghost nets, 10 are considered threatened with extinction according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Fishes and macrocrustaceans were the most recorded groups entangled in ghost nets. We also identified algae, other invertebrates (i.e., cnidarians, echinoderms, molluscs, poriferans, tunicates) and vertebrates (i.e., turtles and mammals). The larger number of ghost fishing events were recorded in Italy and Turkey. This is the most complete study showing the negative effects of ghost nets on marine biodiversity worldwide, based on data retrieved from digital media. With the available literature, our data are important to implement measures against ghost fishing nets in the Mediterranean Sea.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Donald C. Taphorn for suggestions on the manuscript.

JFP was supported by São Paulo Research Foundation—FAPESP [grant number 2019/01308–5]. TG was supported by National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq # 311078/2019–2).

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Of ghost nets and the haunting at nissum bredning.

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Nissum Bredning, Limfjorden, Denmark.

© Google, 2021 Map data © Terra Metrics, 2021.

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One summer day in 2019, Kurt Svennevig Christensen and his friend decided to try a new spot for lobstering. They settled on Nissum Bredning, a large area of shallow water, at the westernmost part of Limfjorden, Denmark. Besides being a Special Area of Conservation, Nissum Bredning is known as a hotspot for catching crustaceans. To their horror, Kurt and his friend did not catch the desirable black lobsters that day. Instead, they found relics of motivated forgetting or symbols of human cruelty dressed as ignorance—the “catch” consisted of nothing but abandoned fishing equipment, popularly known as “ghost nets.”

ghost nets svenska

Bags of forgotten prisons.

Levende Hav, 25 July 2020.

Accessed via the webpage of Levende Hav on 24 February 2022, click here to view source .

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Ghost nets are discarded fishing equipment that no longer has an owner. When gillnets, hooks, or trawls get caught in wrecks or reefs, the lines are cut, and material is left behind. The lost material will then carry on catching fish and other marine wildlife—sentencing them to eternal entrapment. The “specter” of the “ghost” net is that of an eternal, disembodied fisherman. Life is caught and lost in a past intention, like a submerged prison where the coordinates have been lost; life continues until starvation settles in and death strikes.

ghost nets svenska

Bringing in a ghost net on the boat Anton .

Levende Hav, 20 July 2020.

However, not all life ends with death. As Kurt hauled the nets aboard, the stench of decomposition assaulted his nostrils. The processes of rot and decay denote that when one tide of life ebbs out, others come in; the crabs and lobsters were left dead in the nets, and microorganisms had begun their feast, breaking down what once was.

Ghosts and hauntings have recently entered the environmental humanities. Summoning these tropes, Anna Tsing et al. describe how human industry destroys the environment and life is sacrificed on the altar of growth and prosperity. Consequently, we are surrounded by ghosts as multiple pasts that return to haunt the present. The hauntings of the ghosts are exactly what surfaced and appeared to Kurt that day. 

Ghost nets highlight several environmental concerns. Firstly, ghosts transgress quotas and regulations; despite the control of lobstering seasons and numbers, the nets are 24-7 tragedies, catching crustaceans regardless of restrictions. Secondly, most nets are plastics and exceed normal temporal conventions, releasing pollutant microplastics into the ocean during their eternal lifetime. Plastics’ very inexpensiveness promotes disposability. The submerged, abandoned nets invisibly contribute to the accumulative predicament of plastic pollution. Thirdly, besides the ethics of trapping and killing, the bycatch is enormous, and the deaths are both torturous and meaningless.

Kurt is the chair of a Danish NGO called “the Danish Society for a Living Sea” and well-respected in the international fishing community. Not only did the nets surprise him on that day in 2019, so did the staggering quantity. After inquiring with the local fishing milieu, he found that the ghost nets were well-known but unaddressed and unspoken of—a known unknown. The following year, Kurt and the society elected to take a straightforward approach. Thirty volunteers joined the NGO out on the fjord for three weeks to identify and collect as many nets as possible with their activist boat named Anton .

ghost nets svenska

A claw caught in a ghost net.

Levende Hav, 18 July 2020.

The ghost nets are a general concern tied to wider phenomena such as global capitalism and the accumulation of cheap plastics, forming plastic gyres, harming large mammals and marine life. But in Nissum Bredning’s enclosed waters, there is additionally a “local haunting dynamics” at stake. Besides encountering approximately three hundred ghost nets, the society found the local habitat in a ghastly state. There is no cod, no sole, flounder, or plaice, as there used to be. Meanwhile, a severe decrease in lobster and the rise of the brown crab population signals imminent peril to the fjords’ ecosystem. Intensive fishing and the subsequent lack of fish to predate on the crabs has led to this unfortunate imbalance. The specter of the missing fish contributes to the manifestation of ghost nets in several crucial ways. In Nissum Bredning, the ghost nets are seldomly checked, leaving more time to trap lobsters and crabs. Usually, the nets catch fish, which die, and subsequently force the nets to the seabed, urging the fishers to check them frequently. With no fish to weigh them down, the ghost nets keep catching crustaceans for weeks and months. The ghost nets of Nissum Bredning, however, are intentionally neglected.

In time, the ghost nets become so filthy that the effort required to restore them surpasses the gain from collecting them and selling their catch. When inadvertently recuperated, precious lobster may be cut free, further deteriorating the worth of the net. Meanwhile, only the crabs’ claws are harvested because they are the only thing worthy of commodification. Torn limb from limb, the crabs’ dismembered bodies remain in their entangled prison. Finally, the nets are re-submerged and abandoned because both the nets and the clawless crabs are deemed worthless.

ghost nets svenska

A sea anemone and an oyster has attached itself to a crab barely alive. The crab must have been trapped in the net for months.

Levende Hav, 6 August 2020.

Kurt and his friends at the Danish Society for a Living Sea continue to raise questions about ghost nets and the critical state of Nissum Bredning. The problem gained national media attention, and their efforts prompted a government project aimed at identifying and collecting derelict fishing gear. The Society is a lone but sturdy boat in a sea of concern pertaining to the issues of overfishing and pollution. Their actions serve as an example of how an activist approach can address a particular problem, bring it to attention, and initiate large-scale projects dedicated to a better and more living sea.

How to cite

Lundsteen, Sebastian. “Of Ghost Nets and the Haunting at Nissum Bredning.” Environment & Society Portal, Arcadia (Spring 2022), no. 3. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society. doi:10.5282/rcc/9392 .

ISSN 2199-3408 Environment & Society Portal, Arcadia

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2022 Sebastian Lundsteen This refers only to the text and does not include any image rights. Please click on the images to view their individual rights status.

  • Anderson, Michael C., and Simon Hanslmayr. “Neural Mechanisms of Motivated Forgetting.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 18, no. 6 (2014): 279–92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2014.03.002 .
  • Egekvist, Josefine, Finn Larsen, and Lars O. Mortensen. Ghost Nets: A Pilot Project on Derelict Fishing Gear . Lyngby: Danmarks Tekniske Universitet, 2017.
  • Henriksen, Line. “Ecohauntology.” Critical Posthumanism Network (blog). Accessed 20 May 2021. https://criticalposthumanism.net/ecohauntology/ .
  • Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt, Heather Anne Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt. Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, Ghosts of the Anthropocene, Monsters of the Anthropocene . Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.
  • Website of the Danish Society for a Living Sea
  • 2020–21 Annual Report of the Danish Society for a Living Sea
  • Hancock, Lorin. “Our Oceans are Haunted by Ghost Nets: Why That's Scary and What We Can Do.” WWF, 25 June 2019.
  • Tantholdt, Julie and Julie Rosenkilde. “Frivillige finder 300 fiskenet på 14 dage [...].” TV2, 25 August 2020.
  • Stubgaard, Karin. “Spøgelsesnet i danske farvande kortlæ.” Technical University of Denmark, 23 August 2019.
  • Gould, Hannah. “Hidden Problem of ‘Ghost Gear’: The Abandoned Fishing Nets Clogging Up.” The Guardian , 10 September 2015.
  • Print page to PDF

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Lundsteen, Sebastian

University of Stavanger, Norway

orcid.org/0000-0002-8995-1157

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Olive Ridley Project

What Are Ghost Nets?

Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been abandoned, lost or discarded (ALD), at sea, on beaches or in harbours. They are a major contributor to the bigger problem of ghost gear , which refers to all types of fishing gear, including nets, lines, traps, pots and fish aggregating devices (FADs), that are no longer actively managed by fishers or fisheries.

Each year, ghost gear is responsible for trapping and killing a significant number of marine animals, such as sharks, rays, bony fish, sea turtles , dolphins, whales, crustaceans and sea birds. They can cause further destruction by smothering coral reefs, devastating shorelines, and damaging boats.

Ghost net underwater, Maamunagau, Maldives. Image.

How Does Fishing Gear Become Ghost Gear?

Ghost gear is an unintended byproduct of fishing and occurs when the fisher loses all operational control of the equipment. Here are some reasons why fishing gear may become abandoned, lost or discarded:

ghost nets svenska

Poor weather conditions

May dislodge set fishing gear, resulting in misplacement when at sea. Fishermen often dry their nets on beaches, and they may get washed away during storms.

ghost nets svenska

Poor access to disposal or recycling facilities

It is often easier to improperly dispose of unwanted fishing gear by throwing it overboard or leaving it in situ than to bring it back to shore.

ghost nets svenska

Poor gear maintenance

Many commercial fishing operations rarely repair broken nets – or clean them regularly.

ghost nets svenska

High cost of retrieval

Discourages fishermen from recovering lost nets, which can also be time consuming.

ghost nets svenska

Conflict between fisheries & vandalism

E.g. trawlers may drive straight through gillnet areas and destroy other fisheries’ nets, or when someone is fishing where they shouldn’t be.

ghost nets svenska

IUU* fishing activities

If caught by a coast guard or the police, a quick departure may mean that the net is left/torn away. *Illegal, unreported and unregulated

ghost nets svenska

Catch overload

May damage the integrity of the net used, often resulting in breakages and improper disposal of the damaged net.

ghost nets svenska

Destructive fishing techniques

Bottom trawling, for example, will often cause nets to snag on the seafloor and break.

Ghost Gear: A Global Problem

ghost nets svenska

Ghost gear is a global issue. It can occur anywhere in the world where fishing occurs, and hundreds of thousands of miles beyond that too. Ocean currents can cause ghost gear to drift far from its origin and cross countless borders. As a result, the gear can often end up all over the world on beaches, coral reefs, in the deep sea and in the open ocean as large conglomerates. 

Due to its cryptic and transboundary nature , it is extremely difficult to assess the impact of ghost gear on the environment, but it is widely recognised as a major source of mortality for many marine organisms.

Ghost Gear and Marine Life 

Ghost fishing.

Ghost gear, and specifically ghost nets, can cause harm to marine life by continuing to fish in a process called ‘ghost fishing’, causing entanglements of, and ingestion by, marine life.

Entanglement in Ghost Nets

Ghost net removed from Lhaviyani Atoll in Maldives with four Olive ridley turtles and two sharks entangled.

Through this process of ghost fishing, ghost gear can entangle all sorts of marine life, including sharks, rays, manatees, bony fish, sea turtles , dolphins, whales, crustaceans, and sea birds. These animals can remain stuck in nets for weeks, months or even years. As a result they are often found with life threatening injuries – if they haven’t already suffered or died from exhaustion, starvation or predation.

Ingestion of Fishing Hooks, Ghost Nets and Fishing Lines

Green turtle ingested fishing hook. Image.

Entanglements are not the only problem caused by ghost fishing. Marine animals often ingest hooks, lines and nets, causing an array of problems such as perforation of the gastrointestinal tract, obstruction, sepsis, toxicity and starvation.

Smothering of Coral Reefs

Ghost nets can smother coral reefs and kills them. Ghost net on a reef in the Maldives. Image.

Ghost nets often sink to the sea floor and can be found in sensitive habitats, such as coral reefs. Here, the ghost nets can damage coral and even block access to necessary sunlight by smothering the reef. Coral reefs play a vital role in a healthy ocean ecosystem.

Invasive Species Dispersal

Unidentified vertebrate on ghost net. Image.

Ghost nets can travel for thousands of miles and occupy a variety of different habitats. But often, they are not alone! Microorganisms often accumulate on ghost gear overtime and ‘hitch-hike’ across ocean basins. This can encourage an accelerated dispersal of invasive species , which can in turn endanger other species, increase the occurrence of disease and parasites, and potentially disrupt entire marine ecosystems.

Ghost Gear And Sea Turtles

Olive ridley sea turtle entangled in ghost gear. Image.

Sea turtles are particularly vulnerable to the effects of ghost gear since ghost gear can be found in all three of their key habitats:

Nesting Grounds

Nesting turtles returning to the sea, Oman. Image.

On nesting beaches, ghost gear may act as obstacles for both nesting females and her hatchlings. Female turtles can become entangled in marine debris on the beach when nesting, meanwhile hatchlings can struggle to navigate their way to the sea in the presence of ghost gear (even in very small quantities).

Foraging Grounds

Green sea turtles eat sea grass as adults. image.

Sea turtle foraging habitats include seagrass beds and coral reefs, which are often close to shore. As such, they’re often the first place nets are discarded or pots and traps are lost. Ghost nets in particular can smother coral reefs and be hard to detect, so will often entangle sea turtles.

Sea turtle coming up to breath

Sea turtles, whether adult, juvenile or hatchling, can often become entangled in ghost gear in the open ocean. Sea turtles make huge migrations between their nesting and foraging grounds and some species spend a lot of their time in the open ocean. Ghost gear can be mistaken for floating algal mats, which sea turtles use for shelter and food. For this reason, sea turtles often get entangled in that gear and can sustain life-threatening injuries as a result.

Olive Ridley turtle caught in a ghost net. Image.

It is thought that of the 7 species of sea turtle, 2 are of particular concern when it comes to entanglements in the open ocean. The leatherback and olive ridley sea turtles have a pelagic nature, meaning they spend most of their lives in the open ocean. As a result, they have a high chance of encountering floating ghost gear.

ORP’s Work To Tackle Ghost Nets And Ghost Gear In General

Volunteers dismantling ghost nets on the beach in Ha.Kelaa, Maldives.Image.

Ghost gear is a global issue. Large-scale commercial fisheries fishing in international waters produce the vast majority of derelict gear. Consequently, the issue requires engagement on a local, national and international scale in order to create change.

The Olive Ridley Project works at various levels to tackle the issue of ghost gear, from ghost gear retrieval and educating fishers to influencing local and international policy makers.

We sit on several working groups within the NGO Tuna Forum , guiding the group on the ghost gear issue to better manage the world’s tuna fisheries. Our partnership with IPLNF to collect and upcycle ghost gear in the Maldives won the   Joanna Toole Ghost Gear Solutions Award . In addition, we focus on, and encourage, collaboration between NGOs, research institutes and governments around the world.

The ultimate goal of our research is to provide recommendations on how to manage and mitigate the ghost gear issue. We also hope that our research results will prompt changes in fishing net and gear designs, as well as influence fishing legislation. 

Though ORP works in various ways to combat ghost gear, it is important to stress that preventative measures are preferred in order to stop the accumulation of ghost gear in our oceans . For example, developing solutions to prevent gear loss in the first place would be far more sustainable in the long term than costly clean up operations.

Since the project started in 2013, we have:

  • Actively removed more than 10 tonnes of ghost gear 
  • Recorded over 1,000 sea turtle entanglements
  • Rescued and treated more than 155 injured sea turtles (65.5% of whom were victims of ghost gear and other marine debris)
  • Successfully released 83 rehabilitated sea turtles back into the wild
  • Educated fishing and diving communities in Pakistan on how best to retrieve ghost gear from the ocean safely
  • Found innovative ways to repurpose ghost nets

Find out more about ORP’s work to combat ghost gear and its effect on sea turtles:

Scientific Research :

  • What is/are the major source(s) for the nets we find in the Indian Ocean ?
  • Can we age ghost gear to determine how long it has been drifting ?
  • Why are Olive Ridley turtles, and particularly juveniles, at such a risk ?

In The Field :

  • Ghost Gear Retrieval
  • Repurposing Ghost Gear: Ghost Leashes
  • Marine Turtle Rescue Centre
  • McCauley, S.J. and Bjorndal, K.A., 1999. Conservation implications of dietary dilution from debris ingestion: sublethal effects in post‐hatchling loggerhead sea turtles. Conservation biology, 13(4), pp.925-929.
  • Richardson, K., Asmutis-Silvia, R., Drinkwin, J., Gilardi, K.V., Giskes, I., Jones, G., O’Brien, K., Pragnell-Raasch, H., Ludwig, L., Antonelis, K. and Barco, S., 2019. Building evidence around ghost gear: Global trends and analysis for sustainable solutions at scale. Marine pollution bulletin, 138, pp.222-229.
  • Stelfox, M.R., 2021. The cryptic and transboundary nature of ghost gear in the Maldivian Archipelago. University of Derby (United Kingdom).
  • Stelfox, M., Burian, A., Shanker, K., Rees, A.F., Jean, C., Willson, M.S., Manik, N.A. and Sweet, M., 2020. Tracing the origin of olive ridley turtles entangled in ghost nets in the Maldives: A phylogeographic assessment of populations at risk. Biological Conservation, 245, p.108499.
  • van der Hoop, J., Barco, S.G., Costidis, A.M., Gulland, F.M., Jepson, P.D., Moore, K.T., Raverty, S. and McLellan, W.A., 2013. Criteria and case definitions for serious injury and death of pinnipeds and cetaceans caused by anthropogenic trauma. Diseases of aquatic organisms, 103(3), pp.229-264.
  • Zabka, T.S., Haulena, M., Puschner, B., Gulland, F.M., Conrad, P.A. and Lowenstine, L.J., 2006. Acute lead toxicosis in a harbor seal (Phoca vitulina richardsi) consequent to ingestion of a lead fishing sinker. Journal of wildlife diseases, 42(3), pp.651-657.

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Study seeks origins of ghost nets that haunt Hawaii’s shores

Hawaii Pacific University graduate student Drew McWhirter, left, and Raquel Corniuk, a research technician at the university’s Center for Marine Debris Research, pull apart a massive entanglement of ghost nets on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in Kaneohe, Hawaii. The two are part of a study that is attempting to trace derelict fishing gear that washes ashore in Hawaii back to the manufacturers and fisheries that it came from. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Ghost nets and other debris sit in a shed at Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Researchers are conducting a study that is attempting to trace derelict fishing gear that washes ashore in Hawaii back to the manufacturers and fisheries that it came from. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Pieces of net and other fishing gear are numbered before being cataloged at Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in Kaneohe, Hawaii. The two are part of a study that is attempting to trace derelict fishing gear that washes ashore in Hawaii back to the manufacturers and fisheries that it came from. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Raquel Corniuk, a research technician at Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research, pulls apart a massive entanglement of ghost nets on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Researchers are conducting a study that is attempting to trace derelict fishing gear that washes ashore in Hawaii back to the manufacturers and fisheries that it came from. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Jennifer Lynch, a research scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the co-director of Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research, catalogs pieces of ghost nets on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Researchers are conducting a study that will attempt to trace derelict fishing gear that washes ashore in Hawaii back to the manufacturers and fisheries that it came from. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Raquel Corniuk, a research technician at Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research, stretches out a ghost nets on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Researchers are conducting a study that will attempt to trace derelict fishing gear that washes ashore in Hawaii back to the manufacturers and fisheries that it came from. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Jennifer Lynch, a research scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and co-director of Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research, right, and Raquel Corniuk, a research technician at the university, measure a large ghost net on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Researchers are conducting a study that will attempt to trace derelict fishing gear that washes ashore in Hawaii back to the manufacturers and fisheries that it came from. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

A measuring stick lays among ghost nets at Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Researchers are conducting a study that will attempt to trace derelict fishing gear that washes ashore in Hawaii back to the manufacturers and fisheries that it came from. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Hawaii Pacific University master’s student Drew McWhirter, foreground, and Raquel Corniuk, a research technician at the university’s Center for Marine Debris Research, pull apart a massive entanglement of ghost nets on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in Kaneohe, Hawaii. The two are part of a study that is attempting to trace derelict fishing gear that washes ashore in Hawaii back to the manufacturers and fisheries that it came from. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Raquel Corniuk, a research technician at Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research, updates a database with metrics from ghost nets at a lab in Waimanalo, Hawaii on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Researchers are conducting a study that is attempting to trace derelict fishing gear that washes ashore in Hawaii back to the manufacturers and fisheries that it came from. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Waves wash ashore in Waimanalo, Hawaii on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Researchers at the nearby Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research are conducting a study that will attempt to trace derelict fishing gear that washes ashore in the islands back to the manufacturers and fisheries that it came from. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Drew McWhirter, a graduate student at Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research, pulls apart a massive entanglement of ghost nets on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Researchers are conducting a study that is attempting to trace derelict fishing gear that washes ashore in Hawaii back to the manufacturers and fisheries that it came from. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Raquel Corniuk, a research technician at Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research, counts threads in a piece of rope from a ghost net at a lab in Waimanalo, Hawaii on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Researchers are conducting a study that is attempting to trace derelict fishing gear that washes ashore in Hawaii back to the manufacturers and fisheries that it came from. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

Brian Fujimoto, a sales executive for NET Systems Inc., poses in front of a fishing net his company manufactured in Bainbridge Island, Washington on Thursday, May 20, 2021. Researchers in Hawaii are trying to find the source of ghost fishing nets that wash ashore in Hawaii. (AP Photo/Manuel Valdes)

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ghost nets svenska

HONOLULU (AP) — “Ghost nets” from unknown origins drift among the Pacific’s currents, threatening sea creatures and littering shorelines with the entangled remains of what they kill.

Lost or discarded at sea, sometimes decades ago, this fishing gear continues to wreak havoc on marine life and coral reefs in Hawaii.

Now, researchers are doing detective work to trace this harmful debris back to fisheries and manufacturers — and that takes extensive, in-depth analysis on tons of ghost nets.

The biggest concern is that derelict gear keeps killing fish and other wildlife such as endangered Hawaiian monk seals, seabirds and turtles long after it’s gone adrift, said Drew McWhirter, a graduate student at Hawaii Pacific University and one of the study’s lead researchers.

“These nets bulldoze over our reefs before they hit shore,” McWhirter added. “They leave a path of destruction, pulling coral heads out, and can cause a lot of ecological damage.”

Ghost nets foul oceans throughout the world , but the Hawaiian Islands — with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the east and another gyre of floating trash to the west — are an epicenter for marine waste.

Past efforts to identify origins of nets have proven difficult because debris comes from so many countries and nets have few, if any, unique identifying marks or features.

Experts believe many nets are lost accidentally, but boats occasionally ditch nets to avoid prosecution when fishing illegally. Other fishermen cut away portions of damaged nets instead of returning them to shore.

The ghost net study is being supervised by Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research co-director, Jennifer Lynch, a research biologist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“We’re going to have a very challenging time ... trying to identify it back to its source,” said Lynch. “And if we fail, ... that’s going to be increased evidence for policymakers to see the importance of gear marking and potentially bring those kinds of regulations to the front.”

For Lynch, it’s not about pointing fingers. Rather, she hopes the study, which will be presented to the fishing industry first, will help develop new ways to prevent damage to the marine environment.

“We’re doing this study in a very forensic way where we’re gathering as much evidence as we possibly can so that we can present the best, most accurate story,” Lynch said.

The crew gets ghost nets from three sources: The main Hawaiian Islands, the fishing grounds of the Hawaii longline tuna fleet that often snags nets — and the shores of the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which are part of Papahanaumokuakea National Marine Monument.

An April cleanup expedition to Papahanaumokuakea — the largest protected environment in the United States and a UNESCO World Heritage Site — brought back nearly 50 tons (45 metric tons) of nets and other lost gear.

In a shed on the university’s campus, researchers pull apart bundles of fishing gear, noting the relationships between items. Then samples are taken to a lab for analysis.

“We only really need a small sample here to really understand how it’s constructed,” said Raquel Corniuk, a research technician at the university.

Researchers look at about 70 different aspects of each piece of net, including its polymer types. “We look at how it’s twisted. Is it twisted versus braided? We are trying to look at how many strands does it have, its twine diameter, mesh stretch size,” Corniuk said.

The information is entered into a database, which will help scientists find patterns that could lead to manufacturers and eventually individual fisheries or nations.

The researchers have spent about a year collecting data and hope to have findings peer reviewed and published this year.

Among the ghost gear are fish aggregation devices — or FADs — floating bundles of material fishing vessels leave in the ocean to attract fish. The devices have receivers linked to satellites, but when they drift outside designated fishing areas, they’re usually abandoned.

Mike Conroy, president of West Coast Fisheries Consultants, works with purse seine and gillnet operators off California. He said FADs are prohibited in U.S. waters and that fishers do everything they can to prevent loss of nets.

“An average one of those nets is going to run the operator somewhere between 150 and 250 grand,” he said.

Conroy acknowledged ghost gear is a problem. “These types of research activities will point the finger in the right direction,” he said. “I think what you’ll see is that West Coast fisheries probably aren’t contributing much.”

The researchers have already found debris from all corners of the Pacific, including Asian countries and the U.S. West Coast.

Much of the ghost net problem lies with less developed nations that have few fishing regulations and sometimes buy or manufacture low-quality nets, according to a career fisherman who now works for a net manufacturer in Washington state.

“Their products tend to be weaker,” said Brian Fujimoto, a sales executive for NET Systems Inc., in Bainbridge Island. “And if you look at the poly netting and ropes that you’re finding, they’re all very inexpensive stuff.”

Fujimoto said his company uses technology, colors and other construction techniques unique to their products, so they’re easily identifiable.

Making that an industry standard, he said, is “only going to happen with the more industrialized nations, say for example, the U.S., Canada, Japan.”

Daniel Pauly, a marine biologist and professor at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, said, “We kill fish for fishing and for consumption, but these fish that are killed by lost gear are killed for no reason, not to mention the marine mammal and turtles and other animals that we like.”

“Clamping down on this loss, which is too easily accepted, ... is a good thing,” added Pauly.

Jonathan Moore, principal assistant secretary of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the U.S. State Department, said last year, “Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which is sometimes associated with ghost gear , is among the greatest threats to the sustainable use of our shared ocean resource.”

“Certainly, gear-marking guidelines and regulations should be a central pillar of all responsible fisheries management operations,” he said.

Although U.S. and some international laws require identifying markers on some fishing gear, such as crab pots and buoys, nets are not required to be marked.

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries division declined to be interviewed for this story, but said in an email: “NOAA Fisheries is unaware of any regulations that have been, or are being considered, with regard to ghost nets . We continue to work agency-wide on this international marine debris problem.”

Follow Caleb Jones on Twitter: @CalebAP

CALEB JONES

Balticsea 2020

  • Completed projects

hr

  • Eutrophication
  • Information
  • Hazardous substances

Collecting ghost nets in the Baltic Sea

Considering the number of nets lost annually in the Baltic fishing grounds, estimated in the framework of the Ghost Fishing Pilot Project (“ Ecological effects of ghost net retrieval in the Baltic Sea. Pilot Project: Collecting Ghost Nets. Final report ”), there is no doubt as to the need to carry out further, extended actions aimed at minimizing the problem with abandoned gears, in order to reduce the detrimental effects caused by ghost nets to the Baltic ecosystem. 

BalticSea2020 decided therefor to grant funds for a project in larger scale. Actions was carried out by WWF Poland in co-operation with the Lithuanian Fund for Nature from April 2012 until March 2013.

Background Fishing gears abandoned or lost at sea are an unsolved and “silent” problem. It continuously catches fish, birds and marine mammals for many years at the seabed causing degradation of the marine environment. In the framework of the pilot project carried out by WWF Poland with the support of BalticSea2020 in 2011, it was estimated that each year approximately 10 thousand of nets are lost or abandoned in the Baltic Sea. In addition, approximately 450 tonnes of fishing nets are entangled on ship wrecks in the Polish Economic Zone. Research has also proved that the fishing pressure exerted by lost nets could ranges from 20% of the usual net capacity after 3 months, up to 6% after 27 months. Because they do not readily degrade, ghost nets continue to trap and kill marine life, including fish, birds and sea mammals until they are removed from the sea.

The main objective of the project has been to carry out activities aimed at cleaning the Baltic Sea, in the Polish and Lithuanian territorial waters, from lost nets including gear retrieval actions at sea (trawling) in a cooperation with fishermen – 40 days at sea in the Polish waters and 20 days at sea in Lithuanian waters, and clean up a total of four shipwrecks. Furthermore, the project has conduct an information campaign directed at the general public, schools, fishermen and local politicians. To prevent the loss of fishing gear and mitigate the effects of ghost nets, a database has been created to give fishermen the opportunity to report all cases of lost fishing gear. The database will help to create an interactive map showing where the fishing nets are entangled.

By removing lost nets from the sea in the Polish and Lithuanian zones, the project has contribute to decreasing unnecessary and uncontrolled impact of ghost fishing on the species which are already heavily affected by commercial fisheries, such as cod, salmon, sturgeon, endangered sea mammals such as harbour porpoise and birds such as cormorants and will therefore positively impact the Baltic environment. The project has also contribute to raising awareness of sea users with regard to the lost nets.

For information of the pilot project: Collecting Ghost nets - click here . Final report (2012) Read the final report here .

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Piotr Prędki , WWF Polen

PROJECT MATERIAL

2013-03-01 - Final report Collection ghost nets in the Baltic Sea. Final report on the activities conducted in 2012 2012-07-03 - Press release WWF together with Baltic Sea 2020 will retrieve ghost nets 2011-12-13 - Report Ecological effects on ghost nets retrieval in the Baltic Sea

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May 27, 2021

Study seeks origins of ghost nets that haunt Hawaii's shores

by Caleb Jones

Study seeks origins of ghost nets that haunt Hawaii's shores

"Ghost nets" from unknown origins drift among the Pacific's currents, threatening sea creatures and littering shorelines with the entangled remains of what they kill.

Lost or discarded at sea, sometimes decades ago, this fishing gear continues to wreak havoc on marine life and coral reefs in Hawaii.

Now, researchers are doing detective work to trace this harmful debris back to fisheries and manufacturers—and that takes extensive, in-depth analysis on tons of ghost nets.

The biggest concern is that derelict gear keeps killing fish and other wildlife such as endangered Hawaiian monk seals, seabirds and turtles long after it's gone adrift, said Drew McWhirter, a graduate student at Hawaii Pacific University and one of the study's lead researchers.

"These nets bulldoze over our reefs before they hit shore," McWhirter added. "They leave a path of destruction, pulling coral heads out, and can cause a lot of ecological damage."

Ghost nets foul oceans throughout the world, but the Hawaiian Islands—with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the east and another gyre of floating trash to the west—are an epicenter for marine waste.

Past efforts to identify origins of nets have proven difficult because debris comes from so many countries and nets have few, if any, unique identifying marks or features.

Study seeks origins of ghost nets that haunt Hawaii's shores

Experts believe many nets are lost accidentally, but boats occasionally ditch nets to avoid prosecution when fishing illegally. Other fishermen cut away portions of damaged nets instead of returning them to shore.

The ghost net study is being supervised by Hawaii Pacific University's Center for Marine Debris Research co-director, Jennifer Lynch, a research biologist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

"We're going to have a very challenging time ... trying to identify it back to its source," said Lynch. "And if we fail, ... that's going to be increased evidence for policymakers to see the importance of gear marking and potentially bring those kinds of regulations to the front."

For Lynch, it's not about pointing fingers. Rather, she hopes the study, which will be presented to the fishing industry first, will help develop new ways to prevent damage to the marine environment.

Study seeks origins of ghost nets that haunt Hawaii's shores

"We're doing this study in a very forensic way where we're gathering as much evidence as we possibly can so that we can present the best, most accurate story," Lynch said.

The crew gets ghost nets from three sources: The main Hawaiian Islands, the fishing grounds of the Hawaii longline tuna fleet that often snags nets—and the shores of the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which are part of Papahanaumokuakea National Marine Monument.

An April cleanup expedition to Papahanaumokuakea —the largest protected environment in the United States and a UNESCO World Heritage Site—brought back nearly 50 tons (45 metric tons) of nets and other lost gear.

In a shed on the university's campus, researchers pull apart bundles of fishing gear, noting the relationships between items. Then samples are taken to a lab for analysis.

Study seeks origins of ghost nets that haunt Hawaii's shores

"We only really need a small sample here to really understand how it's constructed," said Raquel Corniuk, a research technician at the university.

Researchers look at about 70 different aspects of each piece of net, including its polymer types. "We look at how it's twisted. Is it twisted versus braided? We are trying to look at how many strands does it have, its twine diameter, mesh stretch size," Corniuk said.

The information is entered into a database, which will help scientists find patterns that could lead to manufacturers and eventually individual fisheries or nations.

The researchers have spent about a year collecting data and hope to have findings peer reviewed and published this year.

Among the ghost gear are fish aggregation devices—or FADs—floating bundles of material fishing vessels leave in the ocean to attract fish. The devices have receivers linked to satellites, but when they drift outside designated fishing areas, they're usually abandoned.

Study seeks origins of ghost nets that haunt Hawaii's shores

Mike Conroy, president of West Coast Fisheries Consultants, works with purse seine and gillnet operators off California. He said FADs are prohibited in U.S. waters and that fishers do everything they can to prevent loss of nets.

"An average one of those nets is going to run the operator somewhere between 150 and 250 grand," he said.

Conroy acknowledged ghost gear is a problem. "These types of research activities will point the finger in the right direction," he said. "I think what you'll see is that West Coast fisheries probably aren't contributing much."

The researchers have already found debris from all corners of the Pacific, including Asian countries and the U.S. West Coast.

Much of the ghost net problem lies with less developed nations that have few fishing regulations and sometimes buy or manufacture low-quality nets, according to a career fisherman who now works for a net manufacturer in Washington state.

Study seeks origins of ghost nets that haunt Hawaii's shores

"Their products tend to be weaker," said Brian Fujimoto, a sales executive for NET Systems Inc., in Bainbridge Island. "And if you look at the poly netting and ropes that you're finding, they're all very inexpensive stuff."

Fujimoto said his company uses technology, colors and other construction techniques unique to their products, so they're easily identifiable.

Making that an industry standard, he said, is "only going to happen with the more industrialized nations, say for example, the U.S., Canada, Japan."

Daniel Pauly, a marine biologist and professor at the University of British Columbia's Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, said, "We kill fish for fishing and for consumption, but these fish that are killed by lost gear are killed for no reason, not to mention the marine mammal and turtles and other animals that we like."

Study seeks origins of ghost nets that haunt Hawaii's shores

"Clamping down on this loss, which is too easily accepted, ... is a good thing," added Pauly.

Jonathan Moore, principal assistant secretary of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the U.S. State Department, said last year, "Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which is sometimes associated with ghost gear , is among the greatest threats to the sustainable use of our shared ocean resource."

"Certainly, gear-marking guidelines and regulations should be a central pillar of all responsible fisheries management operations," he said.

Although U.S. and some international laws require identifying markers on some fishing gear , such as crab pots and buoys, nets are not required to be marked.

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries division declined to be interviewed for this story, but said in an email: "NOAA Fisheries is unaware of any regulations that have been, or are being considered, with regard to ghost nets . We continue to work agency-wide on this international marine debris problem."

© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Aliens at a Miami mall? Police say ‘lol’

Police respond at the Bayside Marketplace in Miami on Jan. 1, 2024.

Teens running, police converging and a grey splotch that appears to be moving: Videos from an outdoor mall in Miami stoked wild claims this week on social media that aliens had landed on Earth. But the truth is far more terrestrial.

On Monday, a group of roughly 50 teenagers caused a riot at Bayside Marketplace, an outdoor mall roughly 5 miles from South Beach, according to the Miami Police Department.

The teens were setting off fireworks, which led to a panic as some assumed there was a shooting, said Miami Police Department public information officer Michael Vega. Four teens were arrested.

Police were dispatched “for crowd control due to the juveniles refusing to leave,” Vega said in an email to NBC News. “Some businesses were temporarily closed to allow us to clear the area.”

In the days after the incident, users on social media launched a speculation frenzy, homing in on what they described as “Miami Mall Aliens.” Some suggested police were responding to aliens, not teenagers. Several people reviewed video of the incident circulating online and claimed they could see an alien figure in the grainy footage. Others quickly posted memes.

While many of the responses online appeared lighthearted, the posts show just how quickly and easily misinformation can spread on social media. The response also underscores an uptick in interest in extraterrestrial activity, from hearings in Congress last summer about “unidentified aerial phenomena” or “UAPs” to Mexico’s Congress showing off what it claimed were “nonhuman” aliens. Both of those events also became prime meme fodder.

However, Vega said aliens had nothing to do with Monday’s incident.

“There were no aliens,” he wrote in the email. “No airports were closed. Nothing is being withheld from the public. LOL.”

Still, by Friday afternoon, “Miami Mall Alien” was trending on the social media site X.

“10ft Aliens/Creatures (caught on camera?) fired at inside and outside Miami Mall, media silent, cops are covering it up saying kids were fighting with fireworks, yet all these cop cars, & air traffic stopped that night except for black military choppers…and no media coverage,” claimed one post on X, which on Friday appeared to trigger a slew of conspiracy theories and memes.

One person posted what appeared to be an AI image of a generic alien holding shopping bags, and joked it was “The Miami Mall Alien.”

Another person shared an image of golfer Tiger Woods holding out his hand, as if to shake another person’s hand, with the caption: “Me to the aliens if I’d been at the Miami mall.”

Others remarked that the new year was bound to be wild if aliens had been spotted mere days into January.

“5th day into the New Year now people spotting Aliens in the Miami Mall 2024 is in for one hell of a ride,” the person wrote.

There were, of course, some who wondered: If there was an alien sighting, where’s the proof?

“Everybody have cell phones, but nobody have an up close video of the 8-10 foot alien by the Miami mall?” wrote one X user .

ghost nets svenska

Kalhan Rosenblatt is a reporter covering youth and internet culture for NBC News, based in New York.

IMAGES

  1. Miljöpris till Divers Againts Ghost Nets

    ghost nets svenska

  2. New project invites the public to help track down ghost nets in the

    ghost nets svenska

  3. Ghost Nets

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  4. Ghost Nets (2016)

    ghost nets svenska

  5. Ghost Nets Review

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  6. Ghost nets: the remote town turning death-trap debris into world-class art

    ghost nets svenska

COMMENTS

  1. Ghost net

    Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded in the ocean, lakes and rivers. [1] These nets, often nearly invisible in the dim light, can be left tangled on a rocky reef or drifting in the open sea.

  2. Information: New documentary on ghost nets

    Ghost nets continue to catch fish for decades, affecting the size of the fish population, causing suffering to wildlife and unforgivable destruction of our common natural resources. The documentary "Ghosts in the Baltic Sea" increased awareness on ghost nets and made the problem of littering in the Baltic Sea visible for many of us.

  3. What Are Ghost Nets?

    Ghost nets provide us with an avenue toward reducing the amount of plastic produced globally and the path toward a more sustainable future. ... Svenska (Swedish) ภาษาไทย (Thai)

  4. Ghost nets: silent killers in the oceans

    Ghost nets are pushed across the Indian Ocean by East-West/West-East currents - depending on the monsoon - and many end up on the islands of the Maldives archipelago which spreads along a North-South line. Within one year, volunteers removed over 100 ghost nets and recorded 140 trapped turtles, four reef mantas, three sharks and one sperm ...

  5. Our oceans are haunted by ghost nets: Why that's scary and what we can

    A ghost net is a fishing net that's been lost or abandoned in the ocean. They are one particularly egregious part of the global ghost fishing problem, which includes fishing gear abandoned in the water. Any net or line left in the ocean can pose a threat to marine life. Just because a net is no longer used by fishers doesn't mean it stops working.

  6. Ghost Nets: the Silent Killers

    Nets get entangled in boat propellers, reducing manoeuvrability and ghost gear has caused an estimated 5-30% decline in some fish stocks, which would otherwise form part of the catch.

  7. Ghost nets

    Översättning med sammanhang av "Ghost nets" i engelska-svenska från Reverso Context: I have also reserved funds to support retrieval surveys of ghost nets. Översättning Context Stavningskontroll Synonymer Böjning. Böjning Documents Lexikon Collaborative Dictionary Grammatik Expressio Reverso Corporate.

  8. Fishery: Stronger regulations against ghost nets

    The ghost nets continue to fish for decades, affecting fish stocks, is an animal abuse and an unforgivable waste of our common natural resources. November 6, Greenpeace released the report "Ghost gear - the abandoned fishing nets haunting our oceans", where they demand a stronger regulatory framework against ghost nets in international ...

  9. Ghost Nets will be Cleaned Out of Swedish Waters

    09 June, 2023 - Fishing - At ten locations around Sweden's coasts, clean-up operations are to be carried out to collect the fishing gear that has been lost in lakes and seas, The Maritime and Water Agency (Hav) states in a press release.

  10. Documentary on ghost nets in the World of science (SVT2)

    On February 10, you can see Joakim Odelbergs and Leofilms documentary on ghost nets. The documentary airs at 20:00 in the World of Science (SVT2). Ghost nets are discarded fishing gear that continues to catch fish for decades, affecting the size of the fish population, causing suffering to wildlife and unforgivable destruction of our common ...

  11. Volunteers have pulled 28 tonnes of 'ghost nets' from ...

    George Sarelakos, head of the NGO Aegean Rebreath, says that the nets are "a huge problem around the globe". "They represent about 10 per cent of marine litter found on the sea bottom." Over ...

  12. Ghost net

    Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been lost or that have been been left by fishermen. These nets then float around in the sea, or they end up attached to a rock or other structure. This poses a problem, because the nets continue working. Fish and other animals get caught, and then starve, or die of other causes.

  13. Ghost Nets Haunt the World's Oceans, Hunting Beyond the Grave

    Ghost nets are thought to make up at least 46 percent of the total mass of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, that eternally swirling vortex of litter somewhere between California and Hawai'i,...

  14. Finnish Environment Institute > Are there ghost nets in Finn

    Ghost nets refer to nets and other gear lost by fishermen that fish by themselves in seas and bodies of water. They are harmful to animals and constitute a part of the plastic problem in the seas.

  15. Ghost nets: Tackling a silent killer of the seas

    But imagine those lost nets scaled-up to the size of the giant nets used by ocean going trawlers. "These big boats use nets over 45m in height and 800m in length, which may cost €5,000-€6,000 ...

  16. Ghost Nets and Dive Bar at Vrak

    The autumn dive pub at Vrak is a must for those interested in diving! In the Baltic Sea and the world's other oceans, so-called ghost nets (nets and fishing gear that lie as debris on the seabed) pose a significant environmental threat to both historic wrecks and marine life. Hélène Hagerman, Vice Chairman of Global Underwater Explorer, GUE ...

  17. Negative effects of ghost nets on Mediterranean biodiversity

    Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing nets (i.e., ghost nets) strongly affect biodiversity in marine ecosystems of numerous localities around the world. Based on videos posted by different people in YouTube™, we accessed the negative effects of these gears in the Mediterranean Sea. We identified 86 species, from 12 groups, in 12 countries within the Mediterranean region (including ...

  18. Of Ghost Nets and the Haunting at Nissum Bredning

    The ghost nets are a general concern tied to wider phenomena such as global capitalism and the accumulation of cheap plastics, forming plastic gyres, harming large mammals and marine life. But in Nissum Bredning's enclosed waters, there is additionally a "local haunting dynamics" at stake. Besides encountering approximately three hundred ...

  19. What Are Ghost Nets? The Silent Killers of Our Oceans

    Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been abandoned, lost or discarded (ALD), at sea, on beaches or in harbours.

  20. Study seeks origins of ghost nets that haunt Hawaii's shores

    Hawaii Pacific University master's student Drew McWhirter, foreground, and Raquel Corniuk, a research technician at the university's Center for Marine Debris Research, pull apart a massive entanglement of ghost nets on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in Kaneohe, Hawaii. The two are part of a study that is attempting to trace derelict fishing gear ...

  21. Collecting ghost nets in the Baltic Sea

    Pilot Project: Collecting Ghost Nets. Final report "), there is no doubt as to the need to carry out further, extended actions aimed at minimizing the problem with abandoned gears, in order to reduce the detrimental effects caused by ghost nets to the Baltic ecosystem. BalticSea2020 decided therefor to grant funds for a project in larger scale.

  22. Study seeks origins of ghost nets that haunt Hawaii's shores

    Study seeks origins of ghost nets that haunt Hawaii's shores. Hawaii Pacific University graduate student Drew McWhirter, left, and Raquel Corniuk, a research technician at the university's Center ...

  23. Ghost Nets

    Svenska (Swedish) ภาษาไทย (Thai) ... The Ghost Nets project has been the experimental restoration and subsequent management and documentation of transformation of a former coastal ...

  24. Aliens at a Miami mall? Police say 'lol'

    Jan. 5, 2024, 12:07 PM PST. By Kalhan Rosenblatt. Teens running, police converging and a grey splotch that appears to be moving: Videos from an outdoor mall in Miami stoked wild claims this week ...