A juvenile white tip shark is among the countless carcasses of sea creatures found trapped in an abandoned fishing net. Fishermen discovered the so-called ‘ghost net’ drifting north of Grand Cayman Monday afternoon (16 April), and their photos of the tangled mess quickly went viral.
The photographs, taken about five miles north of the North Sound’s stingray channel, shows our islands are not immune to the harsh realities of ghost fishing.
When abandoned nets and other fishing line are lost or discarded at sea, sea life can become tangled in them, where it’s left to die. The carcasses attract scavengers, who themselves become trapped, beginning an ugly cycle of death that can go on for decades.
Dominic Martin-Mayes and Pierre Lesieur of Stingray Watersports told Cayman 27 they did their best to free what animals they could.
“We actually managed to release a few species which was quite cool, we released one shark, a couple of triple tails, some ocean yellow tails, along with some triggerfish,” said Mr. Martin-mayes. “The problem with that type of net it that it is a monofilament net, so it is very thin, and we were just unable, with what we had and the conditions that were there, with the current and everything it was too dangerous to go any further in to try to cut the net up and try and break it apart.”
“The surface of it was only probably about 50 feet in diameter, but just like an iceberg, 90% of the mass is underneath, and they were miles and miles of netting just tangled up and embedded in themselves, below the water, just disappearing into the depths,” said Mr. Lesieur.
“That thing weighs, a few tonnes by now with all the sargassum weed and everything in it, along with everything else that’s got caught up in it,” said Mr. Martin-Mayes.
“The problem with these nets is they start all over the ocean, they start in Honduras or Cuba or wherever they may start, and they just drift with the currents and they basically just suck up anything in its path and kills anything that gets entangled with it,” added Mr. Lesieur.
The net was last seen drifting east around 4 pm yesterday. The Department of Environment is asking that any sightings of the ghost net be reported, along with a GPS waypoint.
The DOE told Cayman 27 pilots flying sister islands routes have been advised to keep an eye out as well, and the MRCU aircraft has also been involved in searching for the drifting mass of nets. As of air time Tuesday (17 April) the net has not been located.
The DOE said is attempting to organise a retrieval of the net, both to stop its deadly cycle of ghost fishing, and to prevent it from drifting onto one of Cayman’s fringing reefs.