Never drop fishing net into the ocean, damage is huge.

10,000 fishing nets are lost every year in the Baltic Sea, break loose into the storm and become a deadly trap for whales and fish at the bottom of the sea. Environmentalists want to now carry this so-called ghost fishing. Pull with ships, the harrows behind. There are already first experiences.

25,000 stray fishing nets every year end up in the European seas, estimates the environmental organization Greenpeace. There are every year between 5,500 and 10,000 pieces of network, lost fishing boats or the coastal fisheries in the Baltic Sea. “You become the silent case for marine mammals, seabirds and fish”, says Jochen Lamp, head of the WWF Baltic Office. The environmental Association has therefore teamed up with colleagues from Sweden, Estonia, Finland and Poland, the Marelitt Baltic project in life.

Ships drag Harrow on the seabed

Divers ghost nets were recovered in the past. This is however time-consuming and costly. The project partners want to test that’s why an alternative: a 200 kg heavy Harrow. The cultivator tines is actually in agriculture used, loosen the upper soil layer. Project Marelitt Baltic ships should pull the Harrow across the ocean floor to recover networks.

Never drop fishing net into the ocean damage is huge
For fish, the ghost nets become the silent death trap. Alone in the Baltic Sea, up to 10,000 stray nets land each year on the seabed. Photo: WWF

In July, test from Rügen and Usedom will begin. According to WWF, Poland have already good experience with the use of the 1 m wide unit and last year recovered 270 t of networks. But it is not dangerous for the ecosystem? It will also examine the project. 2017 results should exist.

Meanwhile, the Swedish partners experimented with signal transmitters, making networks with the loss more easily findable. The researchers also experiment with materials, which himself faster break down in the water as the nylon used previously on fishing nets and PET. Poland is working on a map with hotspots, where many networks are located.

Fishing boat in FriedrichshafenFishing boat in Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance. The fish yield in Lake Constance Upper 2012 fell 40 to 50 percent, compared to the previous year. Photo: Felix Jay

And what happens to the recovered networks? Moreover, the German waste disposal company Tönsmeier is concerned, the partnership with the WWF is entered. The goal: to develop an optimal process which includes an environmental friendly transport and an effective treatment.