Poni Divers seek public assistance

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BRUNEI-MUARA

PONI Divers is calling on the public to report sightings of ghost fishing in a bid to stop derelict fishing gear from damaging the marine environment.

Managing Director Wong Thye Sing said members of the local dive club were willing to conduct underwater clean-ups to retrieve any lost or abandoned nets, following reports of known ghost fishing in Brunei waters.

“Whenever we see or hear of any ghost nets, we try to clear it up as soon as we can,” he said, adding the net will continue to harm sea life and coral reefs until it is removed from the ocean.

Ghost fishing refers to derelict fishing gear, also described as ghost nets, which damage the marine environment after it is discarded, lost or abandoned. World Animal Protection estimates that entanglement in ghost nets kill at least 136,000 animals including whales every year.

Wong said they encounter abandoned fishing gear at dive sites around four to five times annually, but warned there were likely to be more ghost nets elsewhere in local seas.

In the first two weeks of 2016, he said Poni Divers collected more than 250m of ghost nets weighing over 45kg from the Pelong Rocks and Australian Wreck dive sites. A juvenile white-spotted bamboo shark was also found dead in the large and heavy nets, which were knotted with delicate corals.

Expressing concerns over the hazards posed by ghost fishing, the managing director urged public cooperation in removing lost or discarded nets from the sea.

“No one really wants to throw their fishing nets away since it is valuable, but accidents can happen especially when there’s bad weather and it gets tangled somewhere. If we are informed, we would be willing to try and retrieve these fishing nets for their owners,” he said.

He advised people to mark the GPS coordinates of where the ghost net was last spotted to enable Poni Divers to clear the area.

Depending on the size of the fishing net and the depth of its location, Wong said it could take between several hours to a couple of days to remove the gear from underwater. The cleanup typically involves a team of 10 volunteer divers from the 400-strong club.

“Most divers in Brunei are more than willing to give a helping hand for these activities. What’s important is finding a way to monitor and report ghost fishing incidents,” he said.

The Brunei Times