Haunting Our Seas: How ‘ghost nets’ threaten marine life and human beings

Source: Times of India

Relevance – Marine life is facing threats from human-induced pollutants. Ghost nets are one of the threats that require urgent attention.


Ghost nets put severe stress on marine species, which threaten their survival. A reduction in marine species is in turn worrisome for humans as it would reduce the oxygen level in oceans which currently holds 70% of the world’s oxygen. 

  • The presence of plastic in the world’s seas is growing exponentially. The IUCN estimates that at least 8 million tons of plastic are discarded in our oceans each year.
  • The impact of such debris on marine life, which ingests it or gets caught in it, is enormous. Ghost nets increase this problem even more. These are discarded fishing nets cluttering up land and sea. 
Menace of Ghost Nets:
  • The waters around India are characterized by the presence of trawl nets from big fishing vessels, gill nets, and purse seine nets which are entire walls of netting.
  • They entangle marine life from small crabs and little starfish to turtles and even whales in their mesh. This creates a significant stress on marine creatures, who are unable to escape from their grip.
  • Furthermore, these are made of non-biodegradable materials like nylon due to which they stay for 500-1000 years in the ocean and enhance pollution levels. For instance, 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is composed of fishing nets.
  • The ghost nets are also impacting the long-term health of marine ecosystems.
    • For instance, species like sharks take 25 years to gain maturity and reproduce. They can have as few as one to three offspring in a breeding cycle. 
    • By catching such slow-breeding marine beings in ghost nets, we are wiping out their juveniles and pushing the species closer to extinction. 
  • The death of marine species coupled with deep-sea mining, and the ever-growing extraction of seafood is putting significant stress on oceans
    • Over 70% of the oxygen we humans breathe arises from plankton in the sea. These micro-organisms are dependent on a marine structure where multiple species are dependent upon each other. As we disturb this structure, we are ending our oxygen supply.
Initiatives taken to solve the problem of ghost net:
  • Committed divers frequently explore marine zones to rescue animals trapped in ghost nets. Some states offer fishermen a reward if they let these species go. 
  • There are diving companies that collaborate with the Dive Against Debris movement to clean up local waters. 
  • Some fishing communities in Goa and Maharashtra worship turtles and whales with great sincerity and want them to live free in their marine homes.
  • On ground-level, nature lovers routinely report ghost net sightings and help the authorities free animals stuck in these. 
  • Many environmental NGOs and conservationists organize regular beach clean-ups to reduce plastic waste entering the ocean. 

However, we need far more stringent regulation to prevent the expansion of this menace, which has the potential of creating havoc in the lives of marine species and humans.

Print Friendly and PDF