New technologies to facilitate easier recovery of lost fishing gear are giving a boost to efforts to reduce so-called "ghost fishing" and its harmful impacts on fish stocks and endangered species, reports NaijaAgroNet.
These technologies include, coded wire tags (CWTs), Satellite buoys with solar power, Active pingers, passive sonar reflectors and LED.
NaijaAgroNet reports that advances in marking technology are offering new possibilities for efficient tracking and recovery of lost gear and are changing the way the problem is being tackled, citing for instance, the Coded Wire Tags (CWTs) are being tested as a potential tool for reducing entanglements of marine mammals, turtles and other large marine animals. The nano-sized, laser-etched CTWs are implanted in fishing ropes with no effect on fishing performance but making them detectable to special sensors.
Also, NaijaAgroNet learnt that satellite buoys with solar power are now commonly used in industrial purse seine operations, providing unlimited range and extra-long operating time. While other sensors, like Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers, could be attached to a radio buoy and used to transmit data.
Acoustic technology is equally another add-on, which takes advantage of the sound transmission properties of seawater, also has applications in locating lost gear. Whereas the Active pingers emit sounds at certain frequencies once in the water, the passive sonar reflectors capture and reflect sound energy back to its source.
Just as the lights have long been an integral part of fishing gear markers for the night but today energy-efficient Light-Emitting Diode (LEDs) are being fitted with solar panels, amplifying their effectiveness.
This follows growing concern over this problem, coupled with the increasing availability of these technologies, NaijaAgroNet reports, led FAO to begin developing international guidelines on the effective tagging of fishing gear as a way to cut down levels of troublesome sea trash.
Known as the abandoned, lost and otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), NaijaAgroNet reports that abandoned fishing gear makes up a significant portion of all marine debris, a growing problem in marine ecosystems.
Levels of ALDFG, NaijaAgroNet reports, have gone up significantly in recent decades as a result of increases in the scale of fishing operations and the extensive use of long-lasting synthetic materials. At present, it accounts for about one-tenth of all marine litter, translating into hundreds of thousands of tonnes annually.
This abandoned gear is one of the most problematic types of marine debris, since it can remain in the oceans for years, often continuing to carry out the capture process it was designed for, entangling fish and other marine animals in its nets and killing them - a phenomenon known as ghost fishing.
"The effective marking of fishing gear in busy multi-user sea areas is key to preventing its loss and protecting marine ecosystems," according to FAO Fishery Industry Officer Petri Suuronen. "Fishers can also benefit from the use of new gear tagging technologies which will allow them to minimise loss of potential catch and expensive equipment, and save time searching for lost gear," he said.
Abandoned and lost gears are also a hazard to safe navigation due to fouling of ship propulsion systems and propellers, and marking can help prevent accidents and fatalities.
It can also be a tool in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, allowing control authorities to monitor how fishing gear is being used in their waters and who is using it.