Deadliest Catch: Thailand’s ‘Ghost’ Fishing Nets Help COVID Fight
The “ghost nets” discarded from the country’s lucrative fishing industry are a deadly source of plastic pollution
Underwater divers in plastic-choked waters off the coast of Thailand snip through discarded nets tangled around a reef — a new initiative helping protect marine life and aiding the fight against coronavirus.
Left unattended, “they could stay adrift for decades, either entrapping or becoming the food of marine animals,” says Ingpat Pakchairatchakul of the London-based Environmental Justice Foundation.
Ingpat was speaking to AFP during a recent boat trip off the coast of Chonburi province, as a team of more than 30 divers hacked away at stubborn threads enveloping a reef 27 metres (90 feet) below the vessel.
Net Free Seas is a project that fetches used nets and turns them into new plastic products
It aims to prove that protecting sea creatures can be commercially viable in Thailand, one of the world’s biggest producers of ocean waste.
In one infamous example, a sick baby dugong named Mariam washed up in shallow waters two years ago and later died from an infection caused by plastic lining its stomach.
Divers untangle a fishing net caught around a reef off the coast of Thailand
Mariam was among the nearly two dozen dead or injured large marine animals found beached on Thailand’s shores each year, according to Chaturathep Khowinthawong, the director of the kingdom’s marine park management agency.
Net Free Seas aims to prove that protecting sea creatures can be commercially viable in Thailand
“Once they get stuck, the chance of survival is less than 10 percent.”
The initiative comes in the wake of a growing local outcry over the lethal effects of plastic on marine life
We Want to Save the Ocean
Net Free Seas has salvaged 15 tons of waste netting from sea waters in its first year of operation.
That accounts for a tiny fraction of the 640,000 tons of lost and discarded fishing gear the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says finds its way into the oceans annually.
Sea creatures have less than a 10 percent chance of survival when they get caught in nets, the director of Thailand’s marine park management agency says
“It’s a win-win situation,” says Somporn Pantumas, a fisherman in seaside Rayong city.
Net Free Seas has salvaged 15 tons of waste netting from sea waters in its first year
The 59-year-old is one of 700 people in fishing communities across Thailand selling worn out nets to the scheme.
The scheme has met enthusiastic support from local fishing communities
“The more waste I collect from the sea, the more the current sweeps my way,” he tells AFP.
More than 700 fishermen across Thailand are selling their worn out nets to the scheme
Qualy is using the nets to make face shields, alcohol spray bottles and table divider screens used in restaurants around Bangkok since the onset of the pandemic.
Collected nets are sent to be washed, shredded, mixed with other discarded plastics and melted into shape at Qualy Design
Qualy is using the nets to make face shields, alcohol spray bottles and table divider screens used to protect against coronavirus
“But we really jumped on it because we want to save the ocean as well,” he says.
by Dene-Hern Chen and Pitcha Dangprasith
PICTURES BY LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/afp