Cleaning the seabed: Divers halt the carnage of 'ghost' nets | 6/8/2018 | Staff
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There are ghosts in the ocean. Silent killers carried by the currents, wrapping themselves around reefs and claiming the lives of millions of marine creatures great and small, from sponges and tiny crustaceans to dolphins, sharks and whales.

In their former lives, these ghosts were nets and other fishing gear essential to the livelihoods of millions around the world, and put food on the plates of millions more. But once lost, abandoned or discarded into the sea, these nets continue doing what they were designed to do: catch fish.

Plastic - Nylon - Gear - Ghost - Nets

Mostly made of strong plastic such as nylon, this lost gear known as ghost nets doesn't easily decompose.

"They can remain there for hundreds of years and continue fishing," said Maria Salomidi, environmental researcher at the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research. The trapped fish quickly become bait, attracting larger predators who in turn become entangled themselves.

Cycle - Anything - Crustaceans - Crabs - Lobsters

"And so starts a vicious cycle which ... can kill anything from small crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters to large fish, turtles, seals, dolphins," Salomidi added.

This isn't the only damage the discarded nets cause. When they snag on rocks or coral, they can destroy entire underwater habitats.

Rock - Sea - Rock - Salomidi - Rock

"A rock in the sea isn't just a rock," Salomidi said. "A rock is full of life, it harbors many organisms. These organisms are injured and die under a net that has been caught on the rock."

Whole reefs can quickly turn into barren wastelands.

Percent - Litter - World - Oceans - Seas

An estimated 10 percent of all marine litter in the world's oceans and seas, or some 640,000 tons, is made up of lost or abandoned fishing gear, according to a 2009 report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the U.N. Environment Program, while the deaths they cause contribute to the decline of fish stocks.

A group of volunteer divers aimed to disrupt this cycle of destruction when they...
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