Ghost Fishing: Merciless Killers Haunting Our Oceans

IMG_20150521_191135480_HDRThis is Nemo. Nemo nearly died today, but luckily I was in the right place at the right time and was able to save him.

This evening, I was enjoying a peaceful moment by a pond, when I noticed him struggling near the shore. Upon taking a closer look, I saw he was caught in plastic netting. I transferred him to a bowl, where I was able to closely examine him. A loop in the net was squeezing his body so tightly, it was digging into his flesh. Working carefully, I cut the loop trapping him. Finally free, he excitedly circled the bowl. I then waded into the pond and released him.

Nemo was a victim of ghost fishing. He survived, but thousands of other marine animals are not so lucky. Ghost fishing occurs when fishing gear, such as nets, are abandoned in a body of water and continue to capture animals. Ghost nets indiscriminately trap, maim, starve, and suffocate hapless animals such as fish, turtles, cetaceans, birds, and crustaceans. Trapped fish can act as bait for larger animals, who also become ensnared in the netting.

A sea turtle tangled in a fishing net.

A sea turtle tangled in a fishing net.

Ghost fishing has become a serious problem with the advent of nets made of non-biodegradable materials, such as nylon. Abandoned nets account for a significant 10% of oceanic litter. It is estimated that 640,000 tons of ghost netting are haunting our oceans right now, trapping and killing hundreds of animals each day. Worst of all, non-biodegradable nets remain active for up to 600 years. And even when those nets break apart, they continue to harm the marine animals that ingest the bits of plastic.

Please do not fish. It has been verified time and time again that fish feel pain just as intensely as other animals. (To learn more, see my post Marine Animals Deserve Protection) The fear and pain they experience when a hook pierces their lip and drags them up to the surface, where they suffocate, is incredible. Catch and release is also cruel, even if the hook is removed from the fish’s mouth, as their injuries and psychological shock often kill them. There is no reason to subject innocent animals to this cruelty for the sake of our entertainment and tastes. Please choose compassionate vegan alternatives to fish.

And if you are walking near a body of water and notice abandoned fishing gear, please do not leave it to continue harming wildlife. Collect it and safely dispose of it in a recycling or trash bin onshore. When disposing of soda can holders, be sure to cut open the rings so wildlife cannot become caught.

Freeing a fish caught in an abandoned net has helped me to realize the danger of the seemingly inactive pieces of waste in our environment. From now on I will be careful to leave no trash behind when outdoors and pick up the litter I come across before it can harm wildlife. And I hope you will too.




3 thoughts on “Ghost Fishing: Merciless Killers Haunting Our Oceans

    • I do not know of any laws to prevent it, mainly because losing fishing gear often occurs accidentally. Nets can break and be released into the environment or fall off a boat. Retrieving the fishing gear is costly and there lacks adequate motivation to remove it from international waters or switch to biodegradable nets, but there are several projects, such as the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program, making progress. They, along with others, collect the fishing gear and turn it into energy to power people’s homes. So though there is work being done, there is still no foreseeable solution. I feel that avoiding getting the nets in the water in the first place is our best defense against ghost fishing. Hope this helps!


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