To remove lost fishing nets supplies and gear utilized in both artisan and leisure fishing through the seabed to prevent negative environmental effect on marine ecosystems may be the main objective from the campaign which had been create on 12 June, at 10 a.m. The campaign was developed on board of the ship Freuetó, which departs through the port of L’Estartit. It is really an initiative led by a small grouping of experts in the Department of Ecology as well as the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of your University of Barcelona (UB) with the Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Natural Park.
UB experts Bernat Hereu, Cristina Linares, Pol Capdevila and Eneko Aspillaga took part in this first action to detect and take off lost fishing gear. The campaign aims at minimizing the impact that fishing gear produces on the seabed and marine ecosystems. It will likewise increase natural park users’ awareness of the fragility in the seabed and the efforts that must be made so that you can preserve and recover natural heritage.
Most gear employed in leisure fishing and artisan fishing are passive. Put simply, gear is just not distributed by power-driven boats and is also not swept along the seabed. “However, when cheap fishing nets (hooks, threads, weights, long lines, trammel, etc.) go missing or trapped on the seabed, they might produce severe impacts on marine ecosystems,” says Bernat Hereu, professor within the Department of Ecology in the UB and coordinator in the scientific campaign.
Lost fishing gear are real “ghost nets” that continue catching fish for most months without almost any profit for fisheries. Based on experts, they are accountable for a very high portion of incidental bycatch of commercial and non-commercial species all over the world. Moreover, caught fish can be quite a death trap for marine birds like cormorants and shags.
Lost fishing nets, which can be a huge selection of metres long, are swept down the seabed by the movement water masses (water currents, storms, etc.), and may become fouled with sessile organisms that inhabit marine seabed.
“Communities inhabiting the seabed -particularly coralline- are composed by a lot of slow growing organisms which present a fragile structure, like algas calcareas, gorgonians, bryozoans, arborescent algae, etc. They may be particularly responsive to any physical alteration and they need a great deal time to recover,” emphasizes Bernat Hereu.
Long lines and hooks may also produce severe damages to benthos whenever they become fouled in sessile organisms (gorgonians, coral, algae, etc.). It is essential to highlight that, as times goes by, plastic used to manufacture fishing gear degrades and enters marine trophic network, meaning a brand new threat for the conservation of countless species that ingest them accidentally.
Fishing nets also endanger safety in areas like the Catalan coast where there is very much leisure and tourism activity relevant to the seabed. They involve particular risks for navigation (nets become fouled in propellers, as an example), swimmers and scuba divers. Besides its environmental impact, lost fishing gear creates 12dexipky bad image that discourages tourism.
The protocol to remove lost nets inside the Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Natural Park is a component of the project of the research group MedRecove, which designs some measures to prevent and mitigate Nylon Monofilament Cast Nets remains. The project, which can be extended for some other parts of the Catalan coast, includes campaigns for sensitizing fishers; campaigns for detecting nets with all the collaboration of fishers, swimmers, scuba divers and sailors, and the removal of nets with minimum environmental impact.