Ghost Fishing

During a dive on September 5th near the Old Wall reef, I picked up a piece of mono-filament netting. It was a clear example of ‘Ghost Fishing’. Next to the net were the remains of at least one spider crab, trapped in the net was another spider crab. The first crab probably got caught in the netting and eventually died, the next crab came to eat it. The next crab got caught and would have died if we hadn’t cut it free it. This may have been happening for years already, crabs and fish dying needlessly. The net had rolled around and become a ball of net, it may have travelled a long distance over it’s time in water, killing indiscriminately on it’s path. The net was recovered and it’s killing spree is over.

Over the years whenever I have found unattached fishermen’s pots, I either send them up or make sure the door is open. There is an old fashioned round pot within the Helford River that is full of empty Whelk shells, it is so full it won’t catch any more. It is now a miniature reef for lots of tiny crabs and lobsters, the outside is covered in Anemones. If the pot had a dissolving waster panel, those Whelks would not have died inside. There is also a large keep pot in there with a range of shells in it.

The worst sight I have seen was on a 70m deep wreck out of Penzance. The wreck is unknown but called the Elastoplast by divers. Over the middle of the wreck was a large piece of netting, the netting had a number of Lobsters, Spider Crabs and Brown Crabs in it. Some were alive, most were not. We tried to move the net but it was stuck fast. At that depth we didn’t have long down there and ended up leaving it having not rescued anything, or even made a dent in cutting the net up.

Lost nets are a problem that there seems to be no answer. When it comes to lost pots, perhaps we should take a lesson from some of the Canadian Fishermen who use a dissolving ‘waster panels’. The Canadians have reported increased catches numbers and even large sizes.