Sea ‘Ghosts’ killing marine life

Abandoned fishing nets near Kasimedu harbour can pose a threat to aquatic life if they make their way to the ocean

Published: 15th June 2019 04:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th June 2019 04:19 AM   |  A+A-

Plastic waste and discarded fishing nets lying near the Kasimedu fishing harbour | Ashwin Prasath

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Abandoned fishing nets, lying in heaps near the Kasimedu fishing harbour, are becoming a threat to marine life. Ghost nets, as they are popularly known, can be extremely hazardous when they find their way into the ocean. Every year, they are responsible for trapping and killing millions of marine animals worldwide, including sharks, dolphins and endangered turtles.

Express visited the area where these nets are dumped. It is located in a place where fishermen park their mechanised boats and carry out repair works. Close to 100 metres of the shore, between two groynes, the area is filled with discarded nets of varying sizes. A significant portion was found floating in the water, which will eventually get dragged into the sea during tidal action.  

The dumping ground seems to be a couple of years old, which means a portion of it has already polluted the shoreline. But local fishermen say the nets seen dumped are those discarded during the 60-day annual fishing ban. “This is the time when people replace their damaged nets. All discarded fishing gear are dumped here, but traders will come and pick it up for reprocessing,” says Jayaraman of Kasimedu mechanised boats association.

He assures the waste will be cleared within a week as the fishing ban ended on Friday.Fisheries Commissioner GS Sameeran assured action. “Just recently, on the occasion of World Ocean Day, our department carried out a clean-up drive. We picked up 2 tonnes of plastic garbage from harbour wharf and a truckload of thermocol from N4 wharf,” he says.  Sameeran says his department was working with fishermen, telling them the hazards of throwing damaged nets into the sea. “We are also considering incentives like buy-back policy.”

Scientists from Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute say proper infrastructure is needed to address the problem. “Infrastructure, including access to port reception facility, where fishermen can dispose their unwanted gear, is important,” say experts. “We have been demanding for long that Kasimedu fishing harbour be handed over to the State fisheries department,” says K Bharati, leader of South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association. “The port trust, which manages the facility, does not give it the attention it deserves.”  

In a report titled ‘Ghosts Beneath the Waves’, the World Animal Protection (WAP) also demanded such facilities to be made available to the fishing community, free of charge. “A lot of these issues can be addressed immediately if the fishing harbour is transferred to the State government. It’s a long-pending proposal,” says Sameeran.

Can hurt fish stocks
In a report, the World Animal Protection (WAP) demanded facilities that help fishermen dispose their unwanted gear. It said such facilites should be made available to the fishing community, free of charge. The report attributes an estimated 5-30 per cent decline in some fish stocks to ghost gear. Many of these items can take up to 600 years to decompose, it said

‘Will take action’
Fisheries Commissioner GS Sameeran assured action against erring fishermen. “Just recently, on the occasion of World Ocean Day, our department carried out a clean-up drive. We picked up 2 tonnes of plastic garbage,” he said. He added his department was working with fishermen, raising awareness on the hazards of throwing damaged nets into the sea

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