Finding ghosts saves money

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @gchittimK5

KING5.com

Posted on February 8, 2012 at 7:36 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 8 at 7:56 PM

WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. -- They're called ghost nets and they are the death traps of the sea.

Members of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dive team went ghost hunting Wednesday.  They are looking for lost and abandoned fishing nets or ghost nets that litter the floor of Puget Sound.

Ghost nets threaten the safety of fish and people in oceans around the world. These nets are large fishing nets that were hopelessly snagged on the bottom and released by fishing boats.  They are left behind as part of the cost of fishing, but ghost nets never stop fishing. They become sunken spider webs made of durable nylon that can entangle any unsuspecting fish, sea mammal or human diver who gets too close.

Because of this risk and other problems the nets pose to marine life, the government hires contractors to remove them. Much of the cost of those contracts is due to time spent by professional divers trying to find the nets.  So, the EPA goes in first to find these nets.

See, EPA divers can move more quickly and find the nets in less time, so they hope to locate as many as possible or at least rule out sites so the contractors don't waste time and money looking for them.

"Why take the risk? It's economics. Time is money on the water and with contractors looking out to here to pull up those nets, we don't want them spending all their time looking for those nets," said Sean Sheldrake with the EPA.

EPA divers spent the day searching in all the likely places near Whidbey Island where a net might snagged.  Finding no nets, they eliminated some possible sites that would slow down the contractors and they came up safely.  That's a success in the ghost net hunting business.

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