Deadly lost net discovered in Caymans as FAO rolls out voluntary guidelines on ghost fishing

Cayman Island authorities have reportedly been unable thus far to locate and retrieve a lost fishing net that has killed hundreds of fish and sharks in its waters.

According to reports in British media, the ghost fishing net was found by a man from the United Kingdom who came across it while scuba diving in the Caribbean Sea. 

The diver who made the grisly discovery, Dominick Martin-Mayes of Hampshire, England, told the Independent in the U.K. that he and some friends came across the “solid net of dead, decomposing fish and sharks,” around mid-April. He shared video footage of the mass of dead fish with the Independent.

The Cayman Islands' deputy director of the Department of Environment, Tim Austin, told The Cayman Compass the net had clearly been adrift for some time, judging from the amount of sea creatures found dead in it. [Photo courtesy of the Independent (UK)]

“If we can locate it, we can assess whether we can recover it or tow it somewhere to secure it till it can be dealt with safely,” Austin said.

But Martin-Mayes told the Independent that he doubted the Caymanian authorities would be able to locate the fishing gear he encountered, since it had been drifting for some time.

The discovery comes approximately two months after the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced that the international community had finally reached an agreement on a set of voluntary guidelines for dealing with the issue of ghost fishing. Titled the “Voluntary Guidelines on Marking Fishing Gear,” the agreement is expected to receive its final endorsement in July 2018, the FAO news release said.

“Made predominantly of plastic, fishing gear, when abandoned, lost or discarded at sea, is a significant component of marine debris and has been a concern of FAO [m]embers for decades,” the FAO said in a 9 February news release. “Abandoned, lost, or discarded gear can continue to 'ghost fish' even when it is no longer under the control of humans. This can have serious detrimental impacts on fish and other marine organisms that become entangled in these nets, often unable to escape.”

The FAO noted that 640,000 tons of fishing gear is believed to be lost or abandoned in the oceans each year. 

“These guidelines will help countries to develop effective systems for marking fishing gear so that it can be traced back to its original owner,” the FAO said. “Doing so will support efforts to reduce marine debris and its harmful impacts on the marine environment, fish stocks, and safe navigation,” the release said.


Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500