Ghost net – assassin hiding in the ocean

After catching seafood, the nets are torn or discarded floating in the sea. It’s not just trash, it’s silently killing sea creatures.

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According to the Olive Ridley Project , ghost nets are the term for fishing nets left behind or lost at sea or in a harbor. They are part of the fishing gear left by fishermen at sea, including nets, lines, traps, pots… Photo: MedPharmes.


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Sometimes, bad weather causes fishermen to lose fishing gear in the process of going out to sea. However, this may also be their intention when leaving behind fishing gear that is no longer needed. This is more convenient than bringing them back to shore and then throwing them away. Photo: iStock.


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Below the surface of the water, the creatures are not easy to detect. It moved gently as if it was dancing underwater and then suddenly approached, trapping the creatures. It could be sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, crustaceans… In addition, ghost nets are still stuck on coral reefs, causing the aquatic ecosystem to be severely affected. Photo: NDRC.


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Animals can be trapped in nets for weeks, months or even years. Therefore, when found, they are usually already very weak or have suffered severe bodily harm. Many animals also starved to death, exhausted from being unable to escape the net. Photo: World Sea Turtle.

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Getting entangled in ghost nets isn’t the only danger to marine life. When they eat things like hooks, strings, and nets, they will have gastrointestinal perforation, sepsis, poisoning, and slow death. Photo: NY Daily News.


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Ghost nets or ghost fishing gear also contribute significantly to the ocean plastic crisis. Most modern nets are made of nylon or plastic compounds that can last for centuries. 50, 60 years ago, nets were usually made from hemp or cotton, so they were biodegradable. Photo: Westernd61.


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Research in the journal Scientific Reports in 2018 found that ghost nets account for at least 46 percent of the “major landfill” in the Pacific Ocean. These fishing gear do not disappear but just become smaller pieces over time. Photo: Greenane.


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Ghost fishing gear can be spotted in any body of water. Currents cause ghost fishing gear to drift away from its original position, crossing many borders. Therefore, it is difficult to accurately assess their impact on the environment. Photo: The Guardian.

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Currently, many organizations have been established to partially solve this problem. Divers are often hired to clean up trash, rescue animals trapped in ghost fishing gear.


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