Since 2019 more than 3500 items of fishing gear have been retrieved along the Skagerrak coast. The gears have been examined and details recorded – which gives researchers ever better knowledge of what is lost, where and how.
‘Information has been collected on position, depth, time, gear type and findings of live and dead catch in the gear, to name a few,’ said researcher Susanna Huneide Thorbjørnsen.
The majority of the retrieved fishing gears are traps, and even though escape mechanisms have been required in recent years, most of those retrieved from the Skagerrak and Oslo Fjord did not have a sacrificial rot cord or othe rmechanism to allow catches to escape from lost gear.
‘Even though it is mandatory, 84% of the lost traps were without this,’ Susanna Thorbjørnsen said.
‘This could be due to the gear being lost before the requirements came into effect, or because the rules has not been followed.’
Requirements for escape mechanisms became mandatory for the lobster fishery in 2018, for recreational crab fishing in 2019, for wrasse fishing in 2021 and for crayfish fishing in 2022.
‘Every single day of the year, fish and other animals are caught in lost fishing gear. Ghost fishing is a problem for both animal welfare and the environment. A rot cord can limit the damage if the gear is lost,’ she said.
Several students at the University of Agder have also worked on a master’s thesis relating to various aspects of ghost fishing, and Kristine Kerlefsen attempted to analyse how long a rot cord typically lasts.
‘In fifty percent of the cases, the thread had rotted after 4.7 months, according to the thesis. By comparison, a trap without a rot cord will be able to ghost fish for up to ten years,’ Susanna Thorbjørnsen said.
‘The most important thing is to avoid losing the fishing gear.’