The project ‘Evitem la pesca fantasma’ moves away nineteen lost fishing gears in the sea floor
A total of nineteen fishing gears –surrounding nets, trammel nets, fish traps and longlines- were recovered from the seabeds of the Catalan littoral in 2019 in the last campaign of the project Evitem la pesca fantasma, an initiative that was launched to protect the biodiversity of the ocean ecosystems under the scientific supervision of Bernat Hereu, lecturer at the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona.
The localization and recovery task of the fishing gears was funded by the Directorate General for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs of the Catalan Government, in an action as part of the multi-annual plan for the Maritime Strategy of Catalonia (2018-2021) approved of by the Government, in which the line of action 48 predicts actions for the minimization of negative effects of the lost fishing gears on marine ecosystems.
The project Evitem la pesca fantasma had a first phase of qualitative diagnosis of the situation through online surveys, a second phase of localization through participative sessions, and last, the extraction of localized gears. The nineteen fishing gears that were recovered –tools with a 1,360 square meters extension- were found by members of the Catalan Federation of Underwater Activities (FECDAS). In November 2019, the campaign for the extraction of lost fishing gears in marine floors was led by the Directorate General for Fisheries and counted on the advice from the team of experts of the project Evitem la pesca fantasma of the UB and IRBio.
The 40% of the fishing gears that were taken were found on the coral –the most affected biological community by this problem- and in a lower level, on rocks and sea floors. Regarding the impact on the marine life, a hundred and eighteen species were identified as affected. Out of these, twenty-eight were trapped and thirty-six were taken or broken due to the effect of the lost items (among these, species with great ecological and structural importance such as red coral, gorgonian and bryozoan species). The results of the project that was carried out during 2019 were presented on February 15, as part of the 21st edition of the Mediterranean Diving Show in the Cornellà Fair.
Abandoned nets: a serious threat to the marine life
Nets and other fishing tools that are abandoned or lost in sea floors are a serious threat to the marine life worldwide. Apart from an economic loss for the fishermen, who have to replace the lost materials, these nets affect negatively the marine ecosystems as well as the fishing resources. On the one hand, they capture fish in a passive way –with no benefit for the fisheries- and damage benthic organisms (gorgonian, corals, sponges, etc.). Also, nets can create risky situations for navigation (nets can get tangled in the boat helix), and for swimmers and scuba divers.
Biodiversity Foundation: protection and conservation of the marine biodiversity
This year, the project Evitem la pesca fantasma counts on the support of the Biodiversity Foundation (Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, and Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food), through the Pleamar program –from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (FEMP). With a strong vocation of citizen science, this multidisciplinary project aims to raise awareness among society about the real impact of these nets regarding the species, habitats and marine ecosystems with the support of this institution, which works on the protection of the natural richness and heritage of the country.
The recovered tools in the last campaign are now added to the database of the project promoted by the experts, which records a total of a hundred and thirty-one lost and recovered fishing gears from the marine beds of the Catalan coasts since 2009.
“The obtained results in this project will enable us to make a diagnosis of the effect of lost fishing gears. Also, it will provide information for the design of mechanisms in order to reduce this problem in the Catalan coasts”, notes Bernat Hereu, from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences and the IRBio.
“Moreover, -he continues- other volunteering sessions are programed in order to find lost fishing gears in the Catalan coasts, as well as new awareness tasks on this problem and others affecting the conservation and preservation of our coast”, concludes the expert.