MEPS 145:11-16 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps145011

Catches in 'ghost fishing' set nets

Kaiser MJ, Bullimore B, Newman P, Lock K, Gilbert S

Both trammel and gill nets are used to catch marine fishes and crustaceans around the British Isles. Their use is controversial in areas where there is a risk of incidental catches of seabirds or marine mammals. An additional concern is the fate and fishing capabilities of nets when they are lost either as a result of bad weather or when they are damaged by mobile fishing gear. Few, if any, studies have ascertained for how long or effectively these lost nets continue to fish, more commonly termed 'ghost fishing'. Two types of fixed gear, a gill and trammel net, were set by a commercial fisherman ca 1000 m offshore from a rocky coastal area in southwest Wales, UK. One end of each net was cut free to simulate net loss. The nets were then allowed to fish continually for 9 mo, during which time they were surveyed by divers recording catches by direct observation, still photography and video camera survey. Several hours after both nets had been set, a large number of dogfishes were caught, causing the nets to collapse. Within 1 d, 2 commercial crustacean species, spider crabs Maja squinado and brown crabs Cancer pagurus, were attracted to the dead and decomposing fishes. Many of these animals also became trapped in the netting and were fed upon by their conspecifics and other scavengers. Some of these crustaceans also became entangled and died, producing a sequence of captures throughout the observation period. Catch rate began to decline within a few days of the initial deployment, probably related to a decline in the effective fishing area. The results indicate that lost nets could continue to catch commercial crustacean species for at least 9 mo after initial loss.


Set net · 'Ghost fishing' · Catch-rate · Crustaceans · Fishes


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