Dramatic images recently released by a British marine vet show the increasing threat that lost and discarded fishing gear poses to marine life.
James Garnett, a marine veterinarian with the Cornish Seal Sanctuary who was recently honored by the Zoological Society London, has worked in marine conservation for decades and conducted hundreds of post-mortem examinations on cetaceans and marine mammals, reports Cornwall Live. He posted an image of an adult common dolphin found stranded in December 2017 to raise awareness about the state of our planet’s oceans. The dolphin was seen wrapped from the tip of its snout to the end of its fluke in derelict fishing gear when it was found in Cornwall, while another photo shows a seal entangled in nets weighing 35 kilograms (77 pounds).
Plastic continues to pose a major threat to marine life as it is found in nearly every water system on the planet and in the bellies of even the deepest-dwelling animals, but discarded gear also presents a major concern for cetaceans and marine wildlife. A systematic review published earlier this year in the journal Endangered Species Research suggests that oceanic plastic waste is a “clear animal welfare issue”.
Every year, an estimated 640,000 tonnes (700,000 tons) of “ghost” fishing gear enters the world’s oceans and poses a threat to marine ecosystems. Nets, traps, lines, pots, and other stray fishing gear can trap and smother pelagic marine animals who become entangled and cannot escape, as well as breakdown oceanic habitats like coral reefs. This ghost gear kills hundreds of thousands of marine animals every year as it is nearly invisible when in the water column. Furthermore, cleanup is expensive and often requires specially trained divers who can access remote areas of the ocean.
While plastic pollution and stray fishing gear both remain threats to marine ecosystems, industrial fishing continues to be the biggest contributor to plummeting populations of marine species. A study published in PLOS Biology this month found that the size and numbers of marine predators, which are essential to healthy ocean systems, decreases significantly in habitats that are in close proximity to more than 10,000 people and associated fishing fleets.
[H/T: Cornwall Live]