Greater awareness for ghost fishing needed

National 2 minutes, 12 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

GREATER awareness of ghost fishing is needed to address the global problem of derelict fishing gear in the sea, said Poni Divers.

Wong Thye Sing, managing director of the local dive centre, said they were keen on working together with the Fisheries Department to raise public awareness about the dangers posed by ghost fishing to marine life through efforts such as underwater clean-ups.

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

Around 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear is left in the ocean every year, making up 10 per cent of the world total of marine debris, according to a study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and UN environment Programme (UNEP).

Entanglement in ghost nets not only damage delicate habitats such as coral reefs, but also kills endangered animals including sharks and turtles.

“This is actually a big problem that we face all over the world. It’s not something that can be solved very easily... 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,” said Wong.

In addition to promoting awareness of the issue, he urged the relevant authorities to look into measures to prevent incidents of ghost fishing.

“There are solutions like tagging and labelling the fishing nets, so we can identify where they come from and stop ghost fishing as well. These fishing nets can do a lot of damage to the environment as they go on catching and killing fish for no reason,” he said.

The managing director explained other countries have also introduced financial rewards to encourage people to find and remove ghost nets from the sea.

“It has worked well in some places, while in other places it has not. In some countries, they do ghost net art, where they bring these fishing nets back (to land) and make an art display out of it to promote awareness,” he said.

He added it was imperative for the public, particularly the fishing community, to report any known sightings of ghost nets in local waters.

“We could have a place or somebody to report to, and somebody that can take action. If people were to tell us about any fishing nets abandoned somewhere, we would go out immediately and remove it, because we are one of the stakeholders in Brunei,” he said.

In the first two weeks of 2016, Poni Divers collected more than 250m of ghost nets weighing over 45kg from the Pelong Rocks and Australian Wreck dive sites.

The Brunei Times