Ghost fishing remains a problem

National 2 minutes, 2 seconds

BRUNEI-MUARA

GHOST fishing remains a problem in Brunei’s overfished waters as abandoned fishing gear continues to threaten marine life including endangered species.

Poni Divers yesterday removed a large net weighing 39kg that was entwined over 200m of coral reefs at Pelong Rocks, where a juvenile white-spotted bamboo shark was found dead when it was trapped in the ghost net a few days earlier.

The latest sighting of discarded fishing gear in the marine protected area came just a week after the team of divers spotted another ghost net at the nearby Australian Wreck dive site.

“We have seen ghost nets over the last couple of years, where there are sharks and turtles caught within. With the ghost nets, the first victims would be turtles, so we want to (remove the nets) as soon as we can,” said Wong Thye Sing, managing director of the local dive centre.

Ghost fishing refers to derelict fishing gear, also described as ghost nets, which damage the marine environment after it is discarded, lost or abandoned.

It is unclear how the ghost nets arrived at Pelong Rocks and Australian Wreck in spite of the blanket ban on trawling, but Wong pointed out the fishing gear could have drifted into the sultanate’s territory due to the recent spate of bad weather.

“Normally, what happens is fishermen bring out nets (which) get entangled somewhere, so the nets are abandoned as a result,” he said.

Following frequent encounters with fishing gear that have been found at dive sites in the country, the managing director pointed out the need for stakeholders to cooperate in promoting greater public awareness of the dangers posed by ghost fishing.

“Once people are aware of how damaging these nets can be, then we can look at how we can prevent (ghost fishing),” he said.

Wong said the government is moving in the right direction in marine conservation through policies aimed at tackling dwindling fish resources from decades of overfishing and unsustainable practices. However, he reiterated that awareness must be improved.

“I think we can still go a long way in terms of increasing awareness and also in terms of educating the stakeholders about how things can be better,” he said.

Animal World Protection estimates that a staggering 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear is left in the oceans globally which traps, injures, mutilates and kills hundreds of thousands of sea life including whales, seals, turtles and birds every year.

The Brunei Times