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To remove lost custom fishing nets and gear employed in both artisan and leisure fishing from the seabed in order to avoid negative environmental effect on marine ecosystems may be the main objective of the campaign that had been set up on 12 June, at 10 a.m. The campaign was made on board from the ship Freuetó, which departs from your port of L’Estartit. It is an initiative led by a group of experts from your Department of Ecology as well as the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) in the University of Barcelona (UB) together with the Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Natural Park.

UB experts Bernat Hereu, Cristina Linares, Pol Capdevila and Eneko Aspillaga participated in this first action to detect and remove lost fishing gear. The campaign aims at minimizing the impact that fishing gear produces on the seabed and marine ecosystems. It will also increase natural park users’ understanding of the fragility of the seabed as well as the efforts that need to be made so that you can preserve and recover natural heritage.

Most gear utilized in leisure fishing and artisan fishing are passive. To put it differently, gear is not really spread out by power-driven boats which is not swept down the seabed. “However, when cheap fishing nets (hooks, threads, weights, long lines, trammel, etc.) go missing or trapped about the seabed, they may produce severe impacts on marine ecosystems,” says Bernat Hereu, professor within the Department of Ecology of your UB and coordinator in the scientific campaign.

Lost fishing gear are real “ghost nets” that continue catching fish for several months without any kind of profit for fisheries. As outlined by experts, they are responsible for a higher portion of incidental bycatch of commercial and non-commercial species worldwide. Moreover, caught fish can be a death trap for marine birds like cormorants and shags.

Lost fishing nets, which may be a huge selection of metres long, are swept along the seabed from the movement water masses (water currents, storms, etc.), and can 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 may be particularly understanding of any physical alteration and they also need a whole lot time and energy to recover,” emphasizes Bernat Hereu.

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

Fishing nets also endanger safety in areas like the Catalan coast where there is indeed much leisure and tourism activity associated with the seabed. They involve particular risks for navigation (nets become fouled in propellers, by way of example), swimmers and scuba divers. Besides its environmental impact, lost fishing gear creates 12dexipky bad image that discourages tourism.

The protocol to remove lost nets from the Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Natural Park is an element of any project of your research group MedRecove, which designs some measures to stop and mitigate cast nets remains. The project, which can be extended with other areas of the Catalan coast, includes campaigns for sensitizing fishers; campaigns for detecting nets with the collaboration of fishers, swimmers, scuba divers and sailors, and the removal of nets with minimum environmental impact.