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Searching for lost fishing nets in Baix Empordà coasts

Fishing gears and lost nets can trap organisms for years –the effect of the so-called ghost fishing- and create a negative impact on ocean ecosystems.

Fishing gears and lost nets can trap organisms for years –the effect of the so-called ghost fishing- and create a negative impact on ocean ecosystems.

In some cases, these fishing gears can generate risky situations (boats, scuba divers, etc.)

In some cases, these fishing gears can generate risky situations (boats, scuba divers, etc.)

Experts from the Faculty of Biology and the IRBio take part in this project to improve the protection of the biodiversity in ocean ecosystems.

Experts from the Faculty of Biology and the IRBio take part in this project to improve the protection of the biodiversity in ocean ecosystems.

07/10/2019

Recerca

On Sunday, October 6, the coast in Palafrugell, Baix Empordà, was the place for a day to fight against the effects of the so-called ghost fishing, caused by fishing gears and lost nets around seafloors. Participants in this activity –experts from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona- described and diagnosed tools of such kind which are left in that area. Promoted by the Catalan Federation of Underwater Activities (FECDAS), this initiative is part of the action line of the Marine Action Program of the Catalan Government (2018-2021) to improve the protection of biodiversity in oceanic ecosystems.

 

Nets and other fishing tools that are left or lost in seafloors are a serious threat to marine life worldwide. Apart from an economic loss to the fishermen, which have to respond to such a loss in material, abandoned fishing nets negatively affect marine ecosystems and fishing resources, since these catch fish in a passive manner but with no benefit for the fisheries, and damage benthic animals, such as gorgonian corals and sponges. Moreover, nets can generate risky situations for swimmers, scuba divers and navigation.

Recovering lost nets in the sea with scientific criteria

During this activity in Palafrugell, UB and IRBio experts offered specialized training to more than twenty scuba divers so that they could properly characterize abandoned nets and their level of integration in the marine environment. This is how they could value whether the removal of these gears could cause more negative effects than the derived effects from keep them in seafloors.

This year, the project to locate all lost fishing gears and ghost nets in the Catalan coast has unfold a first phase of qualitative analysis of the situation –thirty meters deep- through online surveys, and a second phase of location and characterization of lost fishing gears. In the latter, the aim is to characterize the situation and state of lost fishing gears in the most affected areas. Once this data is analysed by the scientific team (UB-IRBio), it will make the Administration task easier for a proper extraction of these tools found in the seafloor.

Moreover, part of this project aims to organize future activities in order to gather data on this problem in Camp de Tarragona, Maresme, La Selva and Alt Empordà. In addition, there will be a campaign in November to remove the found fishing gears. This campaign will feature a professional team of underwater work with the information on the location and characterization of abandoned tools, as well as the proper scientific criteria to minimize the impact of this recovery operation.

The first protocol in Catalonia to work on the prevention of ghost fishing effects was led by Bernat Hereu, from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences and IRBio, and coordinated by Joan Ylla, head of the Section of Litoral Protection and Marine Environment of the Directorate-General of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the Catalan Government.

 

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