Abandoned tangled net ensnares 100s of fish

| 18/04/2018 | 36 Comments
Cayman News Service

The “ghost net” is ensnaring hundreds of fish (Photo by Dominic Martin-Mayes and Pierre Lesieur of Stingray Watersports)

(CNS): Boats, planes and all the relevant authorities around the region have been alerted to a twisted and tangled ball of abandoned fishing net, estimated to be at least 40ft across and 40ft deep, that is drifting somewhere off the Cayman coast. The so-called “ghost net” has ensnared hundreds of fish and is gobbling up more as it is carried along on ocean currents. Officials from the Department of Environment have issued the alerts to sea and air traffic in the area to help track it down because, despite conducting a visual air search with the help of the MRCU plane yesterday, the net has not been located. 

The gruesome ocean trap was first sighted Monday by fishermen and staff from a watersports operator, who passed the information on to the DoE just before sunset. Based on estimated coordinates received from those fishermen, DoE staff estimated the trajectory of the net based on sea current and established a search area on Tuesday morning.

But DoE Deputy Director Scott Slaybaugh, who was part of that reconnaissance team looking for the ghost net, said that a change in the weather thwarted efforts to find it.

“We conducted a search yesterday with the help of the Mosquito Unit’s plane based on the coordinates we had, but the weather has changed significantly since it was spotted on Monday and we just can’t locate it,” Slaybaugh told CNS, as he thanked the MRCU spray plane and the team that conducted the extensive search. (See flight log here)

“It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Slaybaugh added.

Cayman News Service

Ghost net off the coast of Grand Cayman, April 2018 (Photo by Dominic Martin-Mayes and Pierre Lesieur of Stingray Watersports)

Slaybaugh explained that although it was only around a mile off the coast of Grand Cayman when it was first spotted, the currents and recent weather changes made it almost impossible to calculate where it was Wednesday, some 48 hours after that first sighting. But he said that the DoE was very keen to bring the net ashore because the longer it drifts, the more fish it will ensnare.

Marine experts are also very concerned about the potential of the net being caught on a reef.

Slaybaugh said that the DoE had received plenty of offers to help bring in the ghost net but finding it was proving very challenging. However, an alert has been issued to everyone on the water as well as air-traffic controllers, who are alerting pilots as well in the hope that someone sees it from the air. “It is our goal to remove the net from the sea,” he added.

It is understood that the people who found the net had attempted to drag it in to shore but it was far too big and heavy for their boat. Dominick Martin-Mayes, a diving instructor who was one of the first people to come across the net, told the Independent that he had jumped in the water to get a closer look and was shocked at what he saw.

“It took my breath away — the first thing I saw was the juvenile oceanic whitetip” he said. “We did what we could to free some of the trapped life but most of it was already dead.”

No one knows exactly how long the net has been drifting or where it came from but the number of dead fish, including sharks, ensnared in the twisted net along with the growth of algae indicates that it’s likely to be months rather than weeks. Slaybaugh said that this was not an isolated incident and that abandoned ghost nets are a major problem across the world’s oceans and another man-made threat to marine life.

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Category: Local News

Comments (36)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Rogue net in Kman waters? Not today Bobo.. not today




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  2. Kadafe says:

    Just saw the video that was recorded by the boat who found it, considering how near to shore it was and that the sun was still up, it’s appalling to think that no one from any of the various authorities could make it out to check it? Was this another call a friend for help cause no one is available response from the authorities? Brushing off a report until seeing some video maybe? Absolutely appaling!




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  3. Anonymous says:

    Are the helicopters on-island assisting at all? Might be an idea to call in available resources. Can ship radars pick these things up?




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  4. Capt. R. J. says:

    The equatorial currents flow north north west at 0.5 – 1 kn if it was on north of Grand Cayman will head to the Gulf passing through and into major shipping activity




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  5. Anonymous says:

    Not only is this extremely horrible for all marine life but what about the potential hazards to cruise ships and other vessels with propeller entanglement. They need to be alerted!




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  6. Kadafe says:

    We need to reach out for help before it gets too far, surely there are experts in the currents of our region? Is it really important who finds it for the recognition? Get it out of the water ASAP! And anyway, with our ships how do they actually intend to haul a several tons net out of the water? Reach out, now!




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    • Anonymous says:

      I wonder if it probably be easier to sink it with concrete blocks and have the ocean cover it up over time. Yeah I know leaving it in the ocean isn’t safe for wildlife but if it could be bundled up somehow and sank, perhaps?




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  7. Kadafe says:

    As some posters have mentioned, a marker of some kind would have been for easier identification later. I think it may take a boat to find it again or a helicopter. Have we contacted other countries with resources in the area? Perhaps they could begin searching on their way down here while we are heading north?




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  8. George D. Ballentine says:

    It would have been nice if those who originally encountered it attached a large colored float to it to help relocate it, or better yet, tried to tow it to shore.




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    • Steve says:

      They did tried to tow but boat was not big enough due weight.




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      • Anonymous says:

        But the colored float is a good point. I was thinking this as I read the article. If no floats a life jacket or even just plastic bottles attached to the top might have improved the chance to relocate it.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Did you read the article?




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    • Anonymous says:

      “the people who found the net had attempted to drag it in to shore but it was far too big and heavy for their boat” – straight from the article




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    • Fred the Piemaker says:

      Because water sport operators and sports fishermen routinely carry large marker buoys with them just in case they come across large marine hazards that need marking? Give them a break – they did their best. If the authorities don’t deploy to the site until the following day and cannot find it, its hardly the fault of those that found it, tried to tow it and tried to release marine life. And to 9:18 am – yeah, the dive operator should have tied their boat to the net and waited until the following morning for DOE to turn up, right.




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  9. Anonymous says:

    Seeing as it was only a mile off GC, a better description of its last known location would be nice. These have been known to ensnare and kill divers.




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  10. Anonymous says:

    Disgusting. And image this happens routinely all over the world as a result of illegal fishing and poor practices.




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    • Anonymous says:

      I remember as a teen fishing with my family nearly 30 years ago off Jamaica, our fish finder picked one of these nets up. It wasn’t bunched up yet which made us think it was recently broken free or cut free. A wall of death a couple hundred feet long with all manner of fish, stingrays and turtles. I have seen some disheartening things in my life but that one was one of the worst.




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  11. West Bay Premier says:

    This is a horrific find , but a careless act to let it get away and continue it destruction of marine life , I read that when this net was found that it was late and that working with something like that you should be doing it in the daytime . Why didn’t they attach some tracking device or a big markers that would made it easier to find in the morning something like that is hard to find in the ocean .

    When removing a net like that , it shouldn’t be pulled in the water because parts of it would be left behind to continue it’s destruction of marine life .

    I know that Fishermans need equipment and means to fish and make their living . But the video of this net and the destruction to marine life is enough evidence to convince any Lawmakers around the world that something needs to be done about this and all nets that Fishermen use . This net wouldn’t have caused the destruction, if that net had been properly secured on the boat, or disposed of properly . This is where accountability and actions is needed to prevent the massive destruction of marine life , and hazards for boats and ships . Can you imagine all of that net getting into your boat propeller and you have to go into the water to clear it from your props ? Very dangerous !




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    • Anonymous says:

      Every body & every boat in Cayman should never leave port without “some tracking device or a big markers” – muppet.




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  12. Anonymous says:

    Should have tied a few buoys to it so it could be re-located.




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  13. Anonymous says:

    Would have been nice if whoever found it and took the photos could have stayed until the right help arrived. Must be we don’t have anyone that can react that fast or the boat forgot about currents. Is there a reason why they couldn’t stay?




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    • Fred the Piemaker says:

      It was getting dark, they had clients on board, and no idea how long it would have taken DOE or RCIPS to get there (or by extension, how far they would have drifted in the meantime) – from the article, it would have been at least 12 hrs. ?




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  14. Randy says:

    Call in the coast guard and alert cruise ships now to be on watch for this new environmental monster killer.
    This needs to be located now!!!!
    Send out the word now. Offer rewards.
    Contact Cuba and Cozumel and other places that has this coming to their area!!! This is terrible. What of the Guy Harvey Foundation and National Geographic? They should have resources to be able to work in the hunt on air and sea.




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  15. Anonymous says:

    It is really regretful that the coordinates of this wanton fish killer were not recorded. Capturing this environmental mess is important.




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  16. Anonymous says:

    Sad… Death by stupid humans




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  17. David says:

    This net is a problem from the Chinese and other illegal and irresponsible mega conglomerates that are taking over the oceans. The Russian trawlers are seen all the time off the CI. They have their canning operations right on board ship. Dont worry they can track this net. It is them that are polluting the oceans and cruise ships with their burning and dumping at sea. They grind up their wastes and dump in oceans and burn plastics and other stuff at sea.




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  18. nauticalone says:

    Seen “a mile off the coast of Cayman”……North / South / East or West coast? What general direction are ocean currents carrying it? This basic information would be helpful!




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    • Bob says:

      Hi Nauti
      You are so right! What area of the island was this seen? CNS? Maybe you might call the Marine Dept and find out more and inform the public. Thanks for this article too. A general location would be helpful to those with cell phones.




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