This blog post is in support of a new weekly WordPress event inspired by prophetic words written in 1971 by Dr. Seuss in his book – The Lorax …
” UNLESS . . . someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
The first week’s theme is Plastic – and I’m re-framing marine trash information posted on Native Leaf’s blog for this blogging event.
Marine trash is something most of us do not think about.
That is probably the first problem, because unless the marine trash washes ashore — like in the photo above from Kip Evans during beach trash clean up in Alaska, USA — we cannot see the problem.
Until synthetic ropes were invented, ropes and netting used in the marine industry were made from natural materials like hemp and abaca (a plant closely related to bananas, musa textilis — also called “Manila Hemp”).
Ropes were also made from plant fibers like jute, sisal, cotton and flax.
The invention of nylon from petroleum-based chemicals in the 1930’s began what would be the rapid decline of natural rope use.
Although nylon was invented as a synthetic fabric replacement for silk (and for use as women’s stockings), nylon fit the needs of the military during World War II. The first rope made with synthetic or man-made fibers was made from nylon.
If lost at sea or dumped overboard, marine ropes and netting made from natural materials biodegrades, while petroleum-based ropes do not.
You may have heard about “ghost nets” or have seen the photos of wildlife entangled in plastic marine debris…like the sea turtle below (photo source, US NOAA).
From the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) website on ghost nets:
… the problem of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) is getting worse due to the increased scale of global fishing operations and the introduction of highly durable fishing gear made of long-lasting synthetic materials.
The report estimates that abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear in the oceans makes up around 10 percent (640 000 tonnes) of all marine litter.
Merchant shipping is the primary source on the open sea, land-based sources are the predominate cause of marine debris in coastal areas.
Most fishing gear is not deliberately discarded but is lost in storms or strong currents or results from “gear conflicts,” for example, fishing with nets in areas where bottom-traps that can entangle them are already deployed.(Photos below from UN FAO)
HOW IS THE PROBLEM BEING SOLVED
There are solutions to this problem, and marine industry trash can be controlled! But it will take work and commitment from the marine / fishing industry and governments.
Again, from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) website:
- Financial incentives. Economic incentives could encourage fishers to report lost gear or bring to port old and damaged gear, as well as any ghost nets they might recover accidentally while fishing.
- Marking gear. Not all trash gear is deliberately dumped, so marking should not be used to “identify offenders” but rather better understand the reasons for gear loss and identify appropriate, fishery-specific preventative measures.
- New technologies. New technologies offer new possibilities for reducing the probability of ghost fishing. Sea-bed imaging can be used to avoid undersea snags and obstacles. Fishing equipment can be expensive, and many fishers often go to great lengths to retrieve lost gear. Technology that makes doing so easier can help. Using GPS, vessels can mark locations where gear has been lost, facilitating retrieval, and transponders can be fitted to gear in order to do the same. Similarly, improvements in weather monitoring technology can be used to help skippers avoid deploying nets when very bad weather is imminent.
- Just as new synthetic and other materials used in fishing gears have contributed to the ADLFG problem, they can also help solve it. Work is underway to speed up the commercial adoption of durable gear components that incorporate bio-degradable elements. For example, in some countries fish traps and pots are constructed with a biodegradable “escape hatch” that disintegrates when left under water too long, rendering the trap harmless. As this would not necessarily reduce the levels of debris, a reporting and retrieval system should also be adopted.
- Improving collection, disposal and recycling schemes. It is necessary to facilitate proper disposal of all old, damaged and retrieved fishing gears, according to the report. Most ports do not have facilities on site that allow for this. Putting disposal bins on docks and providing boats with oversized, high-strength disposal bags for old fishing gear or parts thereof can help remedy this.
- Better reporting of lost gear. A key recommendation of the report is that vessels should be required to log gear losses as a matter of course. However a “no-blame” approach should be followed with respect to liability for losses, their impacts, and any recovery efforts, it says. The goal should be to improve awareness of potential hazards and increase the opportunity for gear recovery.
Great recommendations for the problem, and will work if the marine industry and nations work together to carry out these programs!
In the meantime, when deciding what type of rope to use…please consider alternatives.
I understand that for many modern rope use, safety (e.g., life safety codes, load capacity, breaking strengths required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA) and cost factors are first considerations for the type of rope to use.
But if a biodegradable material can fit the needs of the job, why not use biodegradable, natural ropes instead of synthetics?
To participate in this timely WordPress challenge topic and to see other submissions for the theme click here (http://justanothernatureenthusiast.org/2015/02/06/unless-plastic/)
Thank you to JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org for creating a place to share ideas about “resources and actions…for nature’s sake”.