Photos: NOAA Marine Debris Program (left); Craig Bussel, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (right)
Lost fishing gear kills fish and marine mammals long after it sinks to the bottom of the sea. Because it often floats up into the water column, it can continue "ghost fishing" the species it was designed to capture, as well as entangle and kill other wildlife. It can also harm habitat by scouring, scraping or breaking slow growing corals.
Working with the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, MARE demonstrated in August 2008 that ROVs can successfully remove lost fishing gear beyond the reach of scuba divers. We removed two long lines (including one that was 33 feet long) and a nearly 50-foot long gill net that extended 50 feet into the water column. The gill net was tangled with long lines, as well as shrimp flies and hooks still intact. A chronicle of this experimental cruise is here. A photo showing the ROV manipulator arm cutting one of the long lines is above right.
MARE is now planning future lost fishing gear removal missions.
Anyone who loses fishing gear or observes it underwater should make a report by calling 1-888-491-GEAR.