Ghost nets are a growing threat to marine ecosystems and costal communities in the Pacific. They are also an opportunity to collaboratively build marine litter policy and create behaviour change in Pacific Island communities. In early 2019, TierraMar partnered with the Vanuatu Environmental Science Society, World Animal Protection and Big Blue Vanuatu to run a best practice workshop for ghost gear removal as part our activities under the CEFAS – Commonwealth Litter Programme (CLiP) Project, funded through DEFRA.
The project identified a discarded fishing net in Port Vila, Vanuatu, and a training workshop was held with divers, government staff and VESS staff, prior to its removal over a four-day period. A decision tree analysis was used to consider possible options and outcomes, as well as planning for unexpected situations.
The 50m long net had been impacting the marine ecosystem at Blacksands Caves for over 20 years by trapping wildlife and inhibiting coral growth. It was comprised of two entangled 1-inch gillnets and was caught around, and in some places embedded in, the reef structure. Removal required four divers to carefully cut the net from the reef with scissors in order to minimise further damage. Five one-hour dives by 4 divers were needed to fully remove the ghost net, which was loaded into a boat in pieces and taken to shore for disposal.
In order to tackle the ghost gear problem on a larger scale, this collaborative planning and removal process must be replicated in communities across the pacific. Using the knowledge and experience gained by this project, and building on the practices used in the CLiP project are essential to this goal.