Lost or abandoned fishing gear litter the ocean and might continue to fish for years to come. This fishing results in a “hidden harvest” of fish and shellfish, and represents poor animal welfare and wasted resources.
A number of reasons can cause a fisher to lose gear. Passive fishing gear, such as long lines, gill nets, pots and traps, are connected to the ocean surface by a rope, and often a float or buoy.
The float might disappear beneath the surface, for example if the gear is transported to deeper waters with the currents, if the gear falls down a slope on the bottom, or because of changes in tides. The rope that connects the gear to the surface might break due to wear and tear, excessive load, or if knots are disentangled. Shipping traffic can also pose a risk, as ropes might get cut or tangled in propellers.
If the float is lost or the rope to the gear cuts off, the fisher lose their connection to the gear, and recovering it from the ocean can be challenging.
Unmarked gear with unknown position on the sea floor also raises the risk of new gear loss. To reduce the risk of new losses and to increase the possibility of recovery it is important to report gear loss and conduct gear retrieval projects.