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To eliminate lost custom fishing nets and gear used in both artisan and leisure fishing through the seabed in order to avoid negative environmental effect on marine ecosystems is the main objective of the campaign that had been setup on 12 June, at 10 a.m. The campaign was developed on board from the ship Freuetó, which departs from the port of L’Estartit. It is really an initiative led by a team of experts through the Department of Ecology and also the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona (UB) alongside the Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Natural Park.

UB experts Bernat Hereu, Cristina Linares, Pol Capdevila and Eneko Aspillaga participated in this primary action to detect and take away lost fishing gear. The campaign aims at minimizing the impact that fishing gear produces in the seabed and marine ecosystems. It will increase natural park users’ awareness of the fragility of your seabed and also the efforts that must be made to be able to preserve and recover natural heritage.

Most gear utilized in leisure fishing and artisan fishing are passive. To put it differently, gear is just not distributed by power-driven boats and it is not swept along the seabed. “However, when nylon fishing nets (hooks, threads, weights, long lines, trammel, etc.) get lost or trapped about the seabed, they might produce severe impacts on marine ecosystems,” says Bernat Hereu, professor from the Department of Ecology of the UB and coordinator in the scientific campaign.

Lost fishing gear are real “ghost nets” that continue catching fish for several months without any sort of profit for fisheries. In accordance with experts, they are responsible for an increased portion of incidental bycatch of commercial and non-commercial species all over the world. Moreover, caught fish might be a death trap for marine birds like cormorants and shags.

Lost fishing nets, that may be numerous metres long, are swept down the seabed from the movement of water masses (water currents, storms, etc.), and may become fouled with sessile organisms that inhabit marine seabed.

“Communities inhabiting the seabed -particularly coralline- are comprised by a large amount of slow growing organisms which present a fragile structure, like algas calcareas, gorgonians, bryozoans, arborescent algae, etc. They can be particularly responsive to any physical alteration and they also need so much time and energy to recover,” emphasizes Bernat Hereu.

Long lines and hooks might also produce severe damages to benthos whenever they become fouled in sessile organisms (gorgonians, coral, algae, etc.). It is essential to highlight that, as times goes by, plastic accustomed to manufacture fishing gear degrades and enters marine trophic network, which suggests a new threat to the conservation of numerous species that ingest them accidentally.

Fishing nets also endanger safety in areas such as the Catalan coast in which there is really much leisure and tourism activity relevant to the seabed. They involve particular risks for navigation (nets become fouled in propellers, for instance), swimmers and scuba divers. Besides its environmental impact, lost fishing gear creates 12dexipky bad image that discourages tourism.

The protocol to take out lost nets inside the Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Natural Park is a component of your project in the research group MedRecove, which designs several measures to stop and mitigate cheap cast nets remains. The project, which may be extended to other aspects of the Catalan coast, includes campaigns for sensitizing fishers; campaigns for detecting nets with all the collaboration of fishers, swimmers, scuba divers and sailors, and the removing of nets with minimum environmental impact.