To get rid of lost fishing nets and gear used in both artisan and leisure fishing from the seabed in order to prevent negative environmental influence on marine ecosystems is the main objective from the campaign that had been set up on 12 June, at 10 a.m. The campaign was developed aboard in the ship Freuetó, which departs from your port of L’Estartit. It is really an initiative led by a team of experts from your Department of Ecology along with the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) from the University of Barcelona (UB) along with the Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Natural Park.
UB experts Bernat Hereu, Cristina Linares, Pol Capdevila and Eneko Aspillaga participated in this first action to detect and take off lost fishing gear. The campaign aims at minimizing the impact that fishing gear produces in the seabed and marine ecosystems. It will also increase natural park users’ knowledge of the fragility from the seabed as well as the efforts that need to be made so that you can preserve and recover natural heritage.
Most gear found in leisure fishing and artisan fishing are passive. Put simply, gear is just not spread by power-driven boats and it is not swept down the seabed. “However, when nylon fishing nets (hooks, threads, weights, long lines, trammel, etc.) get lost or trapped in the seabed, they may produce severe impacts on marine ecosystems,” says Bernat Hereu, professor in the Department of Ecology of your UB and coordinator from the scientific campaign.
Lost fishing gear are real “ghost nets” that continue catching fish for many months without any kind of profit for fisheries. In accordance with experts, they are accountable for an increased percentage of incidental bycatch of commercial and non-commercial species around the world. Moreover, caught fish can be a death trap for marine birds like cormorants and shags.
Lost fishing nets, which is often hundreds of metres long, are swept along the seabed from 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 great deal of slow growing organisms which present a fragile structure, like algas calcareas, gorgonians, bryozoans, arborescent algae, etc. These are particularly sensitive to any physical alteration plus they need a great deal time and energy to recover,” emphasizes Bernat Hereu.
Long lines and hooks could also produce severe damages to benthos when 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 new threat towards the conservation of several species that ingest them accidentally.
Fishing nets also endanger safety in areas much like the Catalan coast in which there is very much leisure and tourism activity associated with the seabed. They involve particular risks for navigation (nets become fouled in propellers, for instance), swimmers and scuba divers. Besides its environmental impact, lost fishing gear creates 12dexipky bad image that discourages tourism.
The protocol to eliminate lost nets in the Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Natural Park is an element of the project of the research group MedRecove, which designs some measures to avoid and mitigate cheap cast nets remains. The project, which may be extended to 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 removing nets with minimum environmental impact.