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Marine Life & Conservation

Ghost Fishing

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In a way the term Ghost Fishing almost has a sci-fi/adventure feel to it and does little to portray the great horror and devastation it actually inflicts on the marine environment around the world. The first I ever new about Ghost Fishing was back in the 1980’s when I joined the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to make a film for UK television about the Drift Net fisheries in the North Pacific for Tuna and salmon. At that time, the combined Japanese and Taiwanese fishing fleets were laying approximately 20,000 miles of drift net at any one time. Each net being up to 30 miles long and 100 feet deep, drifting on the ocean currents catching everything that came in their path.

As well as the targeted catch of Tuna, the bi-catch was of unimaginable quantities. Everything perished – Whales, Dolphins, Turtles, Seals, Sea Birds, Sharks and many species of pelagic fish.

Many of these nets were lost at sea and continue to ‘fish’ until the shear weight of the catch would drag them to the sea bed. But this was not the end of the nets’ fishing life. On the sea bottom the nets continue to entangle marine life until one day the ‘catch’ would decompose enough to allow the nets to once again rise to the surface and begin the whole process over again.

Those nets are still out there. It is not just mono-filament nets that cause ‘Ghost Fishing’ problems. Any lost or discarded fishing tackle will take its toll. The problem continues.

There is a Dutch group who are trying to tackle the problem. The article below is written by Pascal van Erp, one of the directors of www.ghostfishing.org

Ghost Fishing is what fishing gear does when it has been lost, dumped or abandoned. Imagine a fishing net that gets snagged on a reef or a wreck and gets detached from the fishing vessel. Nets, long lines, fish traps or any man made contraptions designed to catch fish or marine organisms are considered capable of ghost fishing when unattended, and without anyone profiting from the catches, they are affecting already depleted commercial fish stocks. Caught fish die and in turn attract scavengers which will get caught in that same net, thus creating a vicious circle.ghost-fishing-5

Ghost nets are among the greatest killers in our oceans, and not only because of their numbers. Literally hundreds of kilometers of nets get lost every year and due to the nature of the materials used to produce these nets, they can and will keep fishing for multiple decades, possibly even for several centuries.

When caught on a reef, nets do not only catch fish, turtles, crustaceans, birds or marine mammals, they also destroy hard and soft corals, wiping out complete ecosystems while swaying in the current. If caught on wrecks nets can suffocate a wreck and thereby render hiding places for marine life useless, or even trap them inside.

ghost-fishing-1Divers are all too familiar with this phenomenon, especially in well fished areas. The founders of Ghost Fishing were confronted with ghost nets while diving the many wrecks in the Dutch North Sea. In 2009 they joined a local team of divers who started to clean those wrecks. After some years of local efforts it was time to broaden the horizon and get in touch with like-minded groups all over the world. And so the Ghost Fishing foundation was born. As of March 2013, Ghost Fishing is collaborating with 14 teams worldwide to work on existing projects, set-up new ones and document these through visual media, educating divers, informing a wide audience and raising social awareness. The Foundation exchanges solutions and best practices and maintains a steady stream of information through social media, and a website that offers extensive information and possibilities for interaction.

Collecting ghost nets is also part of a broader mission in which The Foundation works towards sustainable recycling of the nets, which will be used as raw material for new products.ghost-fishing-4

The Ghost Fishing Foundation was started as a non-profit organization in November 2012 and has already presented itself at the Hylkesukelus 2013, a wreck diving seminar in Helsinki, Finland and Duikvaker 2013 in the Netherlands where the message was well received and many valuable contacts were made. The next event will be Baltictech Conference 2013 in Poland where the most recent material of our work will be shown.

In 2013 we hope to participate in clean-up work in Krnica, Croatia, Portofino, Italy and if funding permits more plans will be set-up and executed.

As marine debris is rapidly becoming a greater problem, it is imperative to take real action as soon as possible. Ghost Fishing intends to collect funds to finance clean-ups, to sponsor gear, to train divers and to raise public awareness.

If you would like to know more or start your own project visit http://www.ghostfishing.org/

Marine Life & Conservation

Join us in supporting Dive Project Cornwall Crowdfunder Project

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Do you have a moment to help protect our oceans?

We’re on a mission and have partnered with DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL to help protect our oceans for future generations to cherish and enjoy.

DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL is a unique EDUCATION and EXPERIENCE initiative, reaching over 3,000 schools with their Ocean Education Programme, inspiring the next generation to protect our oceans for everyone to cherish and enjoy.

At the heart of the project is a competition for 400 lucky teenagers to win the EXPERIENCE of a lifetime. They will take the learning from the classroom straight to the shores of Porthkerris on a 6-day, life changing trip where they will learn to scuba dive and be taught the importance of marine conservation. They will become ‘Ocean Influencers’ for the future.

DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL needs our help.

Can you join us with a gift to DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL?

Whether it’s £5 or £50, a gift from you to the DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL Crowdfunder Project will help their vision of protecting our oceans through the innovative experience designed for school children.

Will you join us and pledge to support 400 lucky teenagers learn from and EXPERIENCE the ocean like never before and give them an EDUCATION they can use to inspire others, not forgetting the memories that will last a lifetime?

For more information, you can read the DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL story HERE.

Help us create the next generation of Ocean Influencers with a donation to DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL and ensure our oceans (and planet) are protected for the future.

WWW.CROWDFUNDER.CO.UK/P/DIVE-PROJECT-CORNWALL

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Marine Life & Conservation

Spring jellyfish blooms bring turtles to UK shores

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Marine Conservation Society’s wildlife sightings project asks beachgoers to share their discoveries and contribute to research

The Marine Conservation Society’s long-running wildlife sightings project focuses on two key species which arrive on UK shores: jellyfish and, as a result, turtles. Both species are vital in supporting ocean biodiversity and are indicators of climate change while being at risk from its impacts.

The charity is asking beach and seagoers to share when they spot either of these marine animals to support ongoing research.

During spring and summer, jellyfish arrive in the UK’s warming waters to feed on plankton blooms or, in fact, anything small enough to get caught. To that extent, jellyfish feed not only on plankton, but also the array of eggs and larvae of fish, crustaceans, starfish and molluscs which rely on plankton as a stage of reproduction.

With healthy fish stocks and rich biodiversity, jellyfish quickly become part of an effective food chain. Everything from tuna to turtles will feed on jellyfish of various sizes, so the population is well controlled. Supported by a rich and diverse ocean ecosystem, jellyfish link the microscopic world of plankton to larger marine animals and the ocean around them.

Jellyfish are especially appealing for marine turtles. Six of the world’s seven marine turtle species have been spotted in UK seas as a result of jellyfish blooms in spring and summer.

The largest sea turtle, and the most common in UK seas, is the leatherback which has a ‘vulnerable’ conservation status. Reporting sightings of these incredible creatures will support the Marine Conservation Society and others in understanding their movements, potential threats and how to better protect them.

Amy Pilsbury, Citizen Science Project Lead at the Marine Conservation Society, said:“For more than 17 years, beachgoers across the UK have been contributing to scientific research by sharing their wildlife sightings with us. It’s a key part of our work and plays a vital role in better understanding and protecting our ocean.”

In 2014, with partners from the University of Exeter, the Marine Conservation Society published the first paper from the survey data, confirming key information about UK jellyfish and including the first distribution maps of the surveyed species.

Since the 2014 paper, the wildlife sightings project has recorded notable events such as massive and extensive annual blooms of barrel jellyfish and several summers of Portuguese Man o’ War mass strandings.

The charity continues to run its wildlife sightings project to see what happens to the distribution and frequency of mass jellyfish blooms over time. The data will help to explore any links jellyfish blooms have with big-picture factors such as climate change.

Jellyfish can be spotted year-round in UK seas, but larger blooms are more likely to appear in spring, lasting through until autumn. Jellyfish sighting records from 2021 suggest that compass jellyfish are the most common around UK shores, making up 36% of reported sightings.

Jellyfish species Percentage of sightings reported
Compass jellyfish 36%
Moon jellyfish 17%
Lion’s mane jellyfish 15%
Barrel jellyfish 14%
Blue jellyfish 9%
Portuguese Man o’ War 6%
Mauve stinger 2%
By the wind sailor 1%

For more information on how to identify jellyfish and turtles, and to report a sighting, please visit the Marine Conservation Society’s website.

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