Hey there my fellow fishers. Today I want to talk to you about something that is sadly becoming more and more prevalent in our oceans and waterways – marine debris. Recently here on the east coast of Australia where I live we have had some record rainfall and flooding which has caused tonnes of debris and rubbish to float up onto our beaches.
As I was reading about this I saw another article from the Australian Fishing Management Authority outlining how they had removed 4.5 tonnes of deadly marine debris from our northern seas in 2021 alone. Much of it was to do with illegal fishing in those waters however the article goes on to state that a good bit of it was to do with fishing.
What do we mean by debris?
The article I am referring to here is mainly aimed at the debris left by illegal fishing boats in Australian waters and includes:
- Foreign ghost nets (nets left floating in the ocean)
- Fish aggregating devices (FADS)
- Anchor rope
- Dumped fishing equipment
Then of course there are extras such as fishing lines and plastic waste (food packets etc.) as well.
In terms of the big picture, the oceans are awash with marine debris, much of it deadly. Tonnes of plastic and other waste products are floating in the world’s seas and oceans, posing a serious threat to marine life and ecosystems.
What damage does debris do?
Ok, so we have all see the pictures of sea birds etc with bottle rings etc. around their necks and bodies as well as sharks and seals caught in netting. This can and does eventually obviously cause great stress and/or death to ocean wildlife unless it is removed.
Marine debris can cause considerable harm to fish, seabirds, and marine mammals. Plastic bags, for example, can be mistaken for food (many match the colours of fishing lures to start with) by animals such as turtles and sea lions, leading to digestive problems or even death. Debris can also damage coral reefs and clog up fishing gear, costing fishermen billions of dollars in lost catches each year.
What does this mean for recreational fisherman?
The problems listed above can cause just as much inconvenience to recreational fishers as well – generally via fewer fish stock available for catching or having lines snagged up on debris at the bottom – which in turn causes more problems in regards to extra line left when it is snapped off from the snag caused by the debris.
In terms of regulatory interventions, some local authorities around the world are closing waterways to fishing until the area can be cleaned and wildlife stock recovers.
So what can we do?
This is probably stating the obvious but in order to address this growing problem, we need to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in our oceans in the first place.
Again, is many areas, Governments and businesses are starting to work together to develop and enforce stricter regulations on waste disposal leading to heavy fines for those who continue to pollute the waterways. As individual fishers however, we can help keep our oceans clean and healthy by undertaking the following:
- Reduce the amount of plastic you use. Plastic bags, bottles, and other items often end up as trash in our oceans. Try to avoid using these whenever possible.
- Recycle plastic and other recyclable materials. Many products that we use everyday can be recycled, so be sure to recycle them instead of throwing them away.
- Dispose of rubbish properly without littering on beaches or in the ocean.
- Do not throw old tackle such as hooks, sinkers and swivels etc. overboard. They may seem small but can also look like food to a fish as they float to the bottom.
- If you do lose a net etc. overboard, take a little time to try and find it before you leave.
- If you get busted or a birds nest, do not leave excess line on the beach or in the water.
- Weight down bait packets etc. so that they cannot blow into the water.
- Do not throw human food waste overboard as it can make fish sick.
Basically, all of the above is just asking you to take EVERYTHING back with you rather than leaving it in or near the waterway.
To account for this, many manufacturers are starting to make products that float on the water rather than sink. This way, if something does fall overboard it can be more easily retrieved without causing any damage to the waterway or wildlife. This includes:
- Fish lip grippers
- Rods and reels
And finally, support legislation that aims to reduce marine debris: There are many actions being taken at the governmental level to address marine debris. Supporting these initiatives can help make a significant impact on this problem.
So there you have it, some information in regards to the problem of marine debris in our oceans. As always, I would love to hear of your experiences here and/or what initiatives are being undertaken where you live and fish.