The sea water protection program, updated by Polish Waters, is aimed at ensuring the good condition of the marine environment. Broken by storms and abandoned fishing nets are deadly traps for the inhabitants of the Baltic Sea, so marking fishing nets and catching them as part of the cleaning action are actions that will reduce the amount of ghost nets in the waters of our sea, thus helping to protect the species and marine ecosystems of the Baltic Sea.

Broken by storms and abandoned fishing nets, they become an inseparable part of the seas and oceans. They are made of materials that are not subject to natural decomposition, not only contributing to littering the marine ecosystem, but also threatening the lives of the inhabitants of the Baltic Sea, because their victims are not only fish, birds, porpoises and seals.

Sea creatures in danger

Despite the lack of human surveillance, ghost nets still do the job for which they were created. As a result, fish and other marine organisms are caught in lost nets, often dying in agony. At the same time, the nets are practically invisible, which in the case of human control is a benefit – it allows the capture of specific marine organisms. As they drift in the depths of the sea as abandoned ghost nets, they become a death trap for its inhabitants. Moreover, in the case of porpoises that use echolocation during their journey, their sense fails them because the sound has nothing to reflect on and the web is invisible from the porpoise’s perspective. Trapped animals have no chance of getting out, and as a result, not only do they die, but also injure themselves by becoming entangled in the net, sustaining serious bodily injuries.

Fishing nets are made of nylon or other plastics. This means that they do not break down naturally. They still pose a real danger when broken into smaller pieces when they no longer pose a risk of trapping the animals. The nets can decompose into microplastics that are involuntarily recognized by animals, including fish for food, which leads not only to poisoning their body, but also poses a risk to people eating them.

The life cycle of a ghost network

There are voices saying that the ghost net problem is exaggerated. It is estimated that the efficiency of the spectrum nets, compared to the fishing nets, is about 20%, and after a few months it is only 6%. What’s more, some of them sink to the bottom and no longer pose a threat to animals, but only seemingly. However, it should be borne in mind that if the net sinks to the bottom under the load of entangled animals, which, after death, decompose or are eaten by other sea creatures on the bottom, eventually it begins to float again, where it becomes a threat again. . Such a cycle can be repeated many times until it is interrupted by a human being.

Clearing the seas and oceans is not only catching drifting ghost nets, but also cleansing shipwrecks to which the nets stick to the bottom, thus creating a death trap for many organisms. The Baltic Sea, including the Polish coast, is full of wrecks, especially those left after World War II. It is estimated that only in the Polish part of the Baltic Sea there are about 800 tons of abandoned nets. It’s decades of neglect. Every year between 5 and 10,000 nets are lost, which, in the absence of regular fishing, generates a huge load of waste in the depths and on the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

What can we do to reduce the number of lost nets in the Baltic Sea?

Getting rid of the ghost net from the Baltic Sea is not an easy task. These networks are not only cases of uncontrolled breaks. Still some of them, if damaged, are unknowingly thrown into the sea. Publicizing the problem and education are only part of the success. It is necessary to implement specific practices and institutional cooperation that will contribute to changing this situation. An example of good operation was the international project “MARELITT Baltic” implemented in 2016-2019, the purpose of which was to reduce the impact of the spectrum network on the environment. The project dealt with many aspects of the problem, such as mapping areas at risk of catching nets, recycling and preventing them from reaching the waters of the Baltic Sea. Poland also took part in this project, catching 7.5 tons of nets since 2016.

The aPOWM program, also focusing on marine environmental waste, responds to this threat. Activities initiated under the first Sea Water Protection Program will be continued, i.e.

  • Marking of fishing nets – preventing ghost nets
  • Fishing for litter – cleaning the sea.

Protect the sea!

The program for the protection of marine waters contains a set of measures aimed primarily at improving the state of the environment of marine waters and achieving good status (GES), as well as increasing access to knowledge about individual elements of the environment. The assessment of the condition consists of 11 features of the condition and pressures, including waste in the marine environment. One of the very harmful phenomena to the natural environment are ghost nets. Marine litter poses a significant threat to both humans and marine organisms.

The activities included in the program and its updates are carried out by various entities and ministries, but each of us can contribute to the achievement of the goal of a good condition of the Baltic Sea. We should remember that only effective cooperation of many units and organizations, as well as increasing the awareness of all inhabitants of our country about the importance of caring for the condition of our sea, will allow to improve the condition of the Baltic Sea and protect it properly, ensuring access to clean, biodiverse and safe sea waters. for future generations. Until October 5, 2021, 3-month public consultations on the draft update of the marine water protection program – aPOWM, last. Take part in project consultations and protect the sea with us! 

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