GHOST NETS REMOVAL DRIVES
ACHIEVMENT AT A GLANCE-
Friends of Marine Life (FML) found ghost nets in many places off Trivandrum coast during our underwater studies and it entangles fish and many other marine creatures. During the cyclone Ockhi hit in Kerala from November 27 to 30 this year, about hundreds of fishing vessels were lost along with thousands of kilometers long nets in it. In this context, on 18th March 2018, the SCUBA diving team of FML along with the volunteers made an attempt to remove the ghost nets from the coast off Vizhinjam and removed 400 Kg of ghost nets in just 90 minutes.
We realized that we need to be a skilled team capable to take over underwater activities. For that we organized SCUBA diving training for selected coastal youth those who actively participated in our conservation activities. This was what led us towards our success story ghost net removal and which could create awareness among the public about the effects of cyclone ockhi. Through FML’s seabed studies, especially on fishermen’s livelihood areas we found and recorded more than 50 locations which are rocky reefs, sunken ships and fishing vessels. According to our experience the main reasons of ghost nets are;
- Using eco-sounder and other techniques to find out the potential fishing areas, especially mechanized vessels leave their nets in the natural and artificial marine ecosystems.
- By using nets catching color fishes from the near In-shore reefs.
- Discarding used nets in the beach and because of natural calamity like cyclone ockhi.
As a result of our study, now we are capable to tell the public and the authorities about the locations of ghost net pockets with photographic evidences and GPS details.
- Identifying and removing ghost nets which are entangled or stucked in the marine ecosystems, especially, in rocky and coral reefs is labor intensive and a tough task which can even threat the life of SCUBA diver. So the first and foremost challenge we faced is the lack of experienced SCUBA divers, but we managed to find an apt team of SCUBA divers those who were interested in conservation activities rather than their daily adventurous diving.
- As an emerging conservation team, we are not able to hold our own diving equipments, so lack of diving equipments was the another challenge we have gone though.
- As this is the first community oriented initiative to tackle ghost nets issues we had no model in front of us to adopt the methodologies and tools. So we had had to develop our own tools and methodology to remove and dispose the ghost nets.
- The diversity in the ghost nets and the nature of entanglement in different seabed ecosystems were really challenging as we were compelled to conduct pilot study at each ghost net pockets followed by actual removal drives.
- The SCUBA diving team involved in the removal process were not able to put their effort on rescuing entangled marine animals as they need to remove the nets from the ecosystems which itself time consuming and finish the dive and come to surface in a specified time period.
- The lack of proper ghost nets recycling plants or processing facilities under local government bodies is still being a real challenge.
- In the first ever National Conference on Marine Debris (COMAD) organized by the Marine Biological Association of India (MBAI), FML participated and put forwarded strong suggestions and recommendations highlighting the ghost net issues and now we are trying to earn the attention of the concerned authorities to sort out and solve the problems.
- The regular monitoring of ghost nets pockets and checks the trend of discarding used or damaged nets on shore or in the sea itself.
- Conduct more ghost net removal drives to raise awareness among the public.
- Preparation of short documentaries of ghost nets and its removal activities and thus disseminating the issue and through which attract more people towards marine conservation activities.