The Spooky Truth About Ghost Fishing

Posted Tue, 10/30/2018 - 08:48


Ghost fishing. That phrase makes you think about a spectral figure sitting on the banks of a river with a glowing fishing pole. Or perhaps you imagine a team of paranormal investigators trying to lure a ghost out into the open. The truth is not so supernatural, but just as scary.   

Occasionally fishing nets are cut loose, crab traps can come free from their moorings, and sometimes gear is even abandoned by fishers. All this stuff then is free to roam the ocean or Great Lakes on currents. Although there is no one on the other end, the gear still does what it is meant to do, fish.  

Large next lurking behind a diver.
This net weighs close to 1.5 tons! (Photo credit: NOAA)

Marine life becomes entangled.  

Turtle trapped in a net.
This turtle was freed by NOAA divers, but how many do not escape? (Photo Credit: NOAA)

Traps continue to trap.  

Fish caught in a derelict trap.
Even in the Great Lakes, ghost gear can trap more than its meant to. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

Even boat propellers can become caught in this dangerous debris.  

Large net caught on a boat propeller.
Animals aren't the only ones who get caught. (Photo Credit: NOAA)


But unlike the classic horror movie villains, this menace is easily defeatable. Here at the Marine Debris Program, we support efforts to teach people about the problem, provide a place to dispose of old nets, and actually remove this ghost gear from the water. In fact, if you find yourself in Florida this spooky season, you can participate in one of these Ghost Trap Rodeo removal events, funded through a Marine Debris Program removal grant. There won’t be any lassoing of apparitions, but there will be a lot of creative efforts to make the ocean a better place.  

The Spooky Truth About Ghost Fishing

Posted Tue, 10/30/2018 - 08:48

For citation purposes, unless otherwise noted, this article was authored by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

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Mary Branch

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 16:23

I appreciate all these efforts to prevent and reduce marine debris that causes entanglement and ingestion of marine species. It is a terrible pollutant and killer of our oceans. However, I would like to see another aspect of prevention and awareness: Go Vegan!
If we could present the horrors of the commercial and even recreational fishing industry on a broad scale media push, I do believe many people would eschew seafood. Curbing the demand is a viable way to diminish the mass commercial harvesting of our oceans. Vessel traffic, noise, pollution, gear, and legal and illegal fishing methods are killing our marine animals. It is very sad that people have to harvest and kill everything on land and sea, either for trophies, food, clothing, or fun. Please think about starting a prevention alternative that involves not eating, wearing or decorating with marine animal and ocean parts. Just diving for shells and coral for commercial sale is harming out oceans and their inhabitants too. Start a wave (no pun intended) of be kind to the oceans and don't eat our water animals. Thank you!

Shivani Foodie

Thu, 05/04/2023 - 04:22

Hello! I love this article and agree with it entirely. Ghost fishing refers to abandoned fishing gear that continues to catch marine life, posing a threat to the ocean's ecosystem. The issue is prevalent worldwide and affects fish populations, marine mammals, and other aquatic creatures. Both Shami Kabab and Seekh Kabab are traditional Pakistani dishes that rely on fish as a primary ingredient, highlighting the need to address ghost fishing and promote sustainable fishing practices to protect marine life for future generations.