Strict measures needed to curb 'ghost fishing'



Strict measures needed to curb `ghost fishing` New Delhi: Marine life is threatened not only by intensive fishing but also by accidental entanglement of sea animals in abandoned fishing gear, experts have warned.

Concerned over death of sea creatures due to such 'ghost fishing', experts have demanded strict measures and greater awareness to curb the menace.

'Ghost fishing' is a term used by biologists to refer to death of aquatic animals in abandoned or lost fishing gear -- such as longlines, gill nets, entangling nets, trammel nets, traps and pots.

"Ghost fishing is environmentally detrimental as it does not help anyone," said Dhiresh Joshi, a marine biologist who heads the Marine Division of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI).

"The fish caught by the 'ghost nets' is wasted. And this process continues till the life of the net, reaping the ocean resources and causing tremendous damage to marine ecosystems," Joshi told PTI.

Such practices could be tackled by adopting strict measures and increasing awareness, he said.

Joshi heads a team of researchers part of the Gujarat Coast Coral Securement Project, a joint initiative of the state Forest Department, WTI and Tata Chemicals Ltd.

As part of their research, a team visits the Mithapur beach regularly and each time it came across nets washed ashore with crabs entangled in them.

The local fishing community there gave up fishing nets made of natural fibre and opted for mono-filament nylon nets that last longer than the traditional ones.

"What they do not realise is the scale of harm these modern nets cause to marine life. More organisms caught and wasted in this fashion means less catch for them as well," S Goutham, a member of the project team, said.

Not only the fish and other sea creatures get killed by ghost fishing, but there are instances of human divers losing their lives in freak incidents after entangling in these abandoned nets.

"Sea birds have also been found dying after entangling in nets while trying to feed on fish," Goutham said.

A study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and UN Environment Program (UNEP) suggested giving out cash incentives for fishing fleets to bring torn nets to port, better mapping of sub-sea hazards to avoid losses and prompt reporting of loss of nets as possible solutions.

The 2009 study found that about 6,40,000 tonnes of discarded fishing gear gets added to the oceans every year, killing hundreds of thousands of marine animals worldwide.

PTI