Over the last week the clean-up programme run by the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries with leased clean-up vessel Liafjord has lifted 1200 snow crab traps and around 50,000 metres of rope from Barents Sea fishing grounds.
‘Fishing in such vulnerable areas means that fishermen should be extra cautious when it comes to lost fishing gear and ghost fishing. Things need to improve here,’ said the programme’s senior adviser Gjermund Langedal.
‘The loss of fishing gear should be reported to the Coast Guard, but several retrievals have been gear that isn’t listed as having been reported,’ he said, adding that there should be markers at each end of a string, but none have so far been seen.
‘Traps that have been in the water for two years seem to be fishing effectively. This is both poor management of the resources and unethical,’ he said.
Testing of systems with biodegradable elements is already well underway for the Norwegian snow crab fishery.
‘The experience of this retrieval cruise shows that this is urgently needed. Canada has such solutions, but they do not have a comparable fishing season,’ Gjermund Langedal said.
He commented that marking the ends of strings of traps is an initial and simple recourse, and with the large number of traps placed, it is important that both fishermen and the authorities keep track of which traps come back on board and which are reported lost.
SINTEF and the Directorate are examining technical options for marking fishing gear.
‘In the near future, having a marker on the fishing gear will be as natural as having a number plate on a car,’ he said.
Liafjord’s retrieval cruise continues from east of Nord Kapp, working westwards and from there to the Greenland halibut grounds in the north and then south to Ålesund where the cruise comes to an end.
‘We’d like to give a reminder that it’s important to report lost gear. Lost fishing gear can be reported to the Coast Guard on 07611,’ Gjermund Langedal said.