“Ghost nets” are commercial fishing nets that have been lost or discarded in the ocean. These nets get caught in ocean currents and can drift for years, trapping and killing marine animals (also known as “ghost fishing”).
One large ghost net was recently spotted off of Grand Cayman. Dominick Martin-Mayes, the fisherman who originally discovered the net, was able to rescue a number of fish, but the net contained hundreds of dead sharks and fish, as well as buckets, rope, bottles, and even a tree. Mr. Martin-Mayes had attempted to tow the net back to shore but it was too heavy and they were unsuccessful.
An alert was issued to boaters in an effort to relocate the net and safely dispose of it. Luckily, it was rediscovered by another fisherman who was able to successfully unhook the net and secure it to a dive mooring per the Department of Environment’s instructions. It has since been lifted out of the ocean and moved to a landfill, and an international nonprofit group has offered to safely dispose of the net.
According to Tim Austin, deputy director of the Department of Environment, the number of “creatures” tangled in the net indicated it had been drifting in the ocean for a long time. The net is considered likely to be an illegal pelagic long gill net, which is designed to kill everything in its path and are often cut loose by rogue fisherman on the run. The nets are undetectable from above water, and typically are not discovered until they catch onto something or wash up on a beach. According to Sebastien Fau, a former captain with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, there are likely thousands of these nets adrift in the ocean. Mr. Austin has acknowledged that Grand Cayman was “witnessing a huge global problem drifting through its waters.”
For more information, see:
Olive Ridley Project, “What are Ghost Nets,” oliveridleyproject.org (last accessed 7/11/18).
Tom Embury-Dennis, “Hundreds of sharks and other fish discovered tangled in ‘ghost net’ drifting through Caribbean Sea,” Independent, April 20, 2018.
James Whittaker, ” ‘Ghost net’ removed from water Friday,” Cayman Compass, April 19, 2018.