What is Ghost fishing & how does it affect the marine environment?

Ghost fishing refers to fishing gear, such as nets, lines, and traps, that have been lost, abandoned, or discarded in the ocean and continue to catch and kill marine life unintentionally. This abandoned gear, often referred to as “ghost gear,” remains in the water, continuing to function as if it were still being actively used. Just because a net or other gear is no longer used by fishermen, it does not mean it stops working, this gear has the potential to trap everything in its path. This has many negative impacts on the marine environment.

Marine life entanglement: Ghost fishing gear can entangle a range of marine species, including fish, sea turtles, marine mammals, and seabirds. Once entangled, animals may experience injuries, become unable to move, and eventually drown or die from starvation due to being confined.

Ghost fishing gear can also damage coral reefs and underwater ecosystems. It can smother coral reefs, break and damage fragile structures, and alter the physical environment for many marine animals. Ghost fishing gear can disrupt the natural balance of marine ecosystems and can continue to trap and kill fish, which can lead to reduced fish populations and affect the entire food chain.

Addressing ghost fishing requires a combination of preventive measures and active removal efforts. These can include implementing fishing gear disposal regulations, promoting responsible fishing practices, and conducting regular clean-ups. Cooperation among fishermen and the fishing industry is crucial to effectively combat ghost fishing and minimize its impact on the marine world.

A heartbreaking reality of ghost fishing nets! As we were busy viewing the greatest marine spectacle on earth this came floating past!
Spotted during the 2023 Sardine Run in Port St. Johns.

Video Credit ~ 1OCEAN Film Crew