International charity World Animal Protection has launched a new film and materials showcasing how fishermen are helping each other to protect their businesses from the blight of ghost gear.
Fishing litter or ‘ghost gear’ is used to describe nets, pots, lines and ropes that have been lost or discarded at sea. According to said World Animal Protection UK campaign manager Christina Dixon, gear loss can occur for a number of reasons, from adverse weather to gear conflict. Lost gear is expensive to replace, can continue to fish and cause problems for wildlife. Fish stocks are affected by ghost gear and it poses a safety hazard for vessels.
Two of the fishermen featured in the short film are working in Wales as part of the Pembrokeshire Sustainable Shellfish Initiative to trial fast degrading hooks for escape hatches on lobster pots and hog rings with a weak link mechanism. Another interviewee is with an environmental diver from Neptune’s Army of Rubbish Cleaners, explaining how the project he runs is reuniting lost lobster pots with their rightful owners to save them money and protect the seas.
‘If the pots do get lost it will limit the amount of sea life being stuck in the pots actively ghost fishing. If the pot is lost then the hatch will open and anything stuck can find its way out. I feel all fishermen have got a responsibility to look after the stocks, there has to be something left for tomorrow,’ said fisherman Simon Thomas.
‘Ghost gear will haunt your business and can come at a real cost to any fisherman,’ said Christina Dixon. ‘We are already working with fishermen who are part of the solution and are following the simple advice we are sharing to protect their fishing ground for the future. We look forward to hearing from others interested to trial these, or similar methods in their fisheries.’