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Ghost Gear: Lessons Learned From A Visit to Providence, Rhode Island

Sam Macdonald   |   October 25, 2018

There is an eerie epidemic plaguing the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Communities largely supported by commercial fishing, have begun to see a significant decrease in stock fishing population, and a continued decline in endangered marine life, despite heavy regulations on the industry. The culprit; Ghost Gear and subsequent Ghost Fishing.

Ghost Gear & Ghost Fishing: Lessons Learned

ghost gear deep trekker

The Problem

Ghost Gear refers to lost or abandoned fishing gear (also called derelict fishing gear (DFG)), that continues to capture fish and other marine animals after the gear is no longer controlled by a fisherman. Thought to make up 10% of global marine litter, Ghost Gear is a massive problem without simple villains or easy solutions.

Gear loss is most often caused by common place occurrences, such as weather, strong current, or maritime activity over static fishing or trawling nets. Further complicating the issue is that ghost gear often travel long distances from its point of origin, meaning those that are impacted, are often not the instigators of the problem.

The Ripple Effect

Ghost Fishing is what happens when fishing gear is lost, dumped or abandoned. Nets, long lines, fish traps - basically any human made contraption designed to catch fish or marine organisms are considered capable of ghost fishing. Ghost fishing specifically implies that the organisms caught in ghost gear die as a result of starvation, predation, or cannibalism.

The Ghost fishing phenomenon is part of the global marine issue that impacts marine organisms and the environment. It is not only a problem for marine life however, it is a problem for the commercial fishing industry as well. It kills marketable produce, poses a threat to fishermen and divers, and clogs harbours.

Read more: The scourge of Ghost Gear – Underwater drones used to help mitigate risk to marine life

The Facts

There is a growing body of evidence to show that ghost fishing gear poses serious impacts to the health of marine life and ocean ecosystems more broadly. It is estimated that between 5% - 30% of harvestable fish stocks are impacted by ghost gear across the world, posing a major threat to human health and livelihoods as well as to global food security.

Ghost fishing gear can cause large-scale damage to marine ecosystems through habitat disturbance and causes direct harm to the welfare and conservation of marine animals via entanglement and/or ingestion.

Ghost gear also acts as a source of, and vehicle for, persistent toxic chemical pollution in the ocean. It threatens human life and health, particularly divers and those trying to navigate the oceans in both small and large vessels. Ghost gear also poses economic impacts, compromising yields and income in fisheries, and costing many millions of dollars annually to clean up.

Being Part of the Solution

underwater rov ghost gear

The Fishing Industries sustainability issues with by-catch and the global plastic pollution epidemic are relatively well reported, however, the widespread issue with Ghost Gear and subsequent, Ghost Fishing is less well known.

On a recent trip to Providence, Rhode Island, Rachel Major of Deep Trekker, presented at the Commercial Marine Expo, on “How to Utilize Underwater ROVs to Enhance Your Commercial Diving Business.” The immediate feedback from the divers in attendance was that there was an immediate and imperative application for the DTG2 and DTX2, in the assistance of locating and removing Ghost Gear.

Hard to see, varying visibility, strong current and limited budgets have made retrieval of ghost gear difficult. Having Deep Trekker’s DTG2 or DTX2 onboard, would assist in mitigating the issue by being able to search immediately for dropped nets, lines, cages etc., or scanning on a regular basis in retrieval and clean up efforts. These two quick solutions would alleviate many of the obstacles that have been hindering East Coast clean ups.

Lovers of the ocean, its marine life and those who make their living by it, Deep Trekker is proud to be a part of a solution that is making a positive environmental impact and assisting in the livelihood and success of commercial fishing and diving industries.

Contact us today to learn more about how Deep Trekker is providing a means of safety for the commercial diving industry

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