The marine eco-system is being threatened extensively by the appearance of ghost gears or ghost nets. Abandoned by the fishermen at sea, these continue to trap fishes even today. And it is only expanding its presence with more and more fishermen resorting to the use of synthetic fibres of late. Ghost gears threaten aquatic eco-systems, from shallow coral reefs to deep water landscapes.

In a joint clean-up drive of coasts organized by the Veraval research centre of ICAR’s Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), Marine National Park (MNP), Jamnagar and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) last month at Mithapur and Dwarka found 600 tonnes of ghost gears.

While the three organizations removed the nets using knives from the intertidal reefs, the WWF, India held a similar drive at the Veraval coast alone found 120kg of ghost gears. WWF-India’s Senior Programme Coordinator, Dr N Pravin Kumar said, “An issue that has commanded growing attention is ghost gear mitigation and prevention. These are fishing gears like nets and lines that either get lost or are abandoned by fishers. These continue to trap fish for years after.”

According to scientists, sometimes the net gets cut accidentally during fishing. Once it drifts away inside the sea, it’s not possible to retrieve. There is no dumping facility for old nets and there is also no incentive for that. Hence, fishermen abandon the old nets at the coast and during high tide it gets drifted away.

The abandoned nets prove a trap for marine life. Once trapped, it causes a significant economic loss and also a threat to global food security.

“Turtles, dolphins, sharks, seabirds and more can get entangled in, or ingest plastic fishing lines, preventing them from swimming or hunting. The coral reef and seagrass eco-systems can be smothered by heavy, immobile masses of tangled gear,” said S Chinnadurai, scientist in fisheries resources management at CIFT Veraval.

Gujarat hosts a huge coastline and fishing community at Okha, Mithapur, Dwarka, Jamnagar, Veraval, Una, Jafrabad, Porbandar, Kutch etc and it poses a danger to the environment. Senior scientist and scientist-in-charge of CIFT, Veraval, Ashish Kumar Jha said, “Nets pose a serious issue and because of this menace we sometimes get reports of plastic pieces found from inside of fish, or in the mussel of the fish, or microplastic found in its bloodstream.”

Scientists from Kerala to Gujarat coast are trying to sensitize fishermen on the ills of the such nets. They are also asking the government to bring some sponsored scheme under which these fishermen can get incentives while dumping this ghost gear at safer places.