Turkish ministry removes abandoned fishing nets from seas, lakes to save marine life
İdris Emen - ISTANBUL
Turkey’s Agriculture and Forestry Ministry has carried out ghost net cleanups in seas and lakes in the last four years, removing 389,000 square meters of abandoned fishing nets claiming the lives of many marine creatures.
Abandoned fishing nets create a huge problem called “ghost fishing.” These nets can travel long distances from their points of origin and can remain in the seas and lakes long after they are discarded, resulting in the entrapment and death of marine mammals, sea birds and fish.
To tackle this growing problem, the Turkish Agriculture and Forestry Ministry launched a project in 2014, conducting research in 725 areas in Turkish waters in the same year. The research concluded that thousands of meters of nets were left in seas and lakes, leading to a nationwide cleanup work.
Divers and underwater robots have scanned 23,000 decares of sea and lake floors in 504 areas during 2014 and 2018. During this period, they removed 389,000 square meters of abandoned fishing nets and 2,300 fishing baskets from the waters.
Some of these fishing gears are not deliberately discarded but are lost in storms or strong currents or result from “gear conflicts,” for example, fishing with nets in areas where bottom-traps that can entangle them are already deployed.
“Following observations and analyses, it has been observed that the projects and works have yielded positive results in the short-term. For example, red corals, which are protected and the hunting of is banned completely in our country, are densely found in the [Aegean resort of] Ayvalık sea area. With the removal of the abandoned nets [in this area], it has been seen that red corals’ habitat revived,” the ministry said in a statement.
The minister has also called on fishermen to inform authorities about their missing fishing gear “to determine new areas where works will be conducted and to boost the effectiveness of the project.”
An academic at Istanbul University’s Marine Sciences Institute told daily Hürriyet that the fishing nets caused extensive damage to the marine ecosystem.
Not only do these nets trap and kill marine animals, but also “dead organisms that accumulate on nets lead to a rise in bacteriological pollution” in the waters, according to Ahsen Yücel, an assistant professor at the university.