What are ghost nets and how do they end up in our oceans?

Bombshell Bay Swimwear is made from ghost nets and lines, along with plastics found in our oceans. So, what actually are ghost nets and how do they end up in our oceans?

Ghost nets are commercial fishing nets that have been lost, abandoned, or discarded at sea. Unfortunately, hundreds of kilometres of nets get lost every single year. These nets are responsible for trapping and killing millions of marine life including sharks, rays, turtles, dolphins, whales, crustaceans, all types of fish and birds along with many others. Most of the time, the marine life will swim into these nets, often unable to detect them by sight or smell. Often Sharks will smell prey that are already tangled and not knowing that they too will get stuck, swim into these nets to attempt to catch the prey. It's a vicious cycle.

Ghost nets keep the animals from moving freely, cause serious injuries, and keep mammals and birds from rising to the surface for air, so sadly they eventually die from drowning. Not only do they kill our wildlife, ghost nets cause further damage by entangling live beautiful coral, smothering the reefs and introducing parasites and invasive species into the sea’s environments. 

What are they made of?
Before the 1960s, nets were commonly made from biodegradable hemp or cotton. Then came synthetic, degrade-resistant materials such as nylon. Due to the nature of the materials used to produce these nets, they can and will keep fishing for multiple decades, possibly even for several centuries. They don’t break down over time and they also don’t disintegrate. 

What are the figures?
Approximately 640,000 tons of fishing gear are left in our oceans every year according to the World Animal Protection (WAP). It is estimated that ghost nets account for approximately 10 percent of all marine debris. They are among one of the greatest killers to date in our oceans, and not only because of their numbers, it's the hundreds of kilometres of net per drop.
In the below image, is an example of multiple nets that are caught together. They get intertwined and will take anything that comes in its way. Imagine an underwater tornado.  

Below is a picture of a ghost net choking a reef. Once they get tangled and stuck on a reef, rock or shipwreck, it is near impossible for it to break free by itself so anything that is behind or in it, unfortunately will eventually die along with the reef itself. 

So how do we stop these nets?
To stop these nets from becoming ghosts in the first place, WWF advocates along with many other amazing non for profits are helping create fishing gear that can be traced to its owner so anyone dumping nets can be fined and also creating refundable deposits on nets to encourage returning or recycling rather than littering. They also help with tools like sonar reflectors that can make ghost nets easier to find and work with small-scale fisheries to develop more sustainable fishing gear and practices. By attacking this problem from all sides, together with conservation partners, fishers, and supporters, we can banish ghost nets and protect our oceans better.

Clean-ups - Another solution is for organizations to pick up derelict fishing gear from the water. For example, Healthy Seas, based in Europe, is sending divers out to recover ghost nets from the Adriatic and North seas, and has been scouting the Mediterranean Sea and the California coast for future clean ups. Healthy Seas says it recovers the nylon nets, cleans them of organic, plastic or metallic material, and recycles them into econyl (Which is what we use for our swimwear) Italian Carvico Vita.

Biodegradable fishing nets - A new study published in the journal Animal Conservation describes some promising tests done with biodegradable fishing nets. The researchers developed a net made of a blend of 82 percent polybutylene succinate (PBS) and 18 percent polybutylene adipate-co-terephthalate (PBAT) and compared its fishing efficiency with conventional nets. (If you can’t convince fishermen that these nets will do as good a job as regular, non-biodegradable nets, this is a pointless exercise.) During lab testing, the biodegradable nets had inferior theoretical performance to the regular nets (they had lower breaking strength and were stiffer), but during actual fishing they performed similarly to regular nylon monofilament nets and started to biodegrade after 24 months in seawater. This is only a first step. More testing needs to be done, and the biodegradable materials could no doubt be improved to better match the performance of conventional nets, but these tests were promising enough to show that this solution will be pursued further.

So how is Bombshell Bay Swimwear connected to all of this?
We have always been extremely passionate about the ocean and so when we created our label, we knew that our swimwear had to be made from products recycled from the sea. Ghost nets is an easy choice for us, as the facts are truly devastating. When you purchase swimwear from Bombshell Bay, you're helping us help fix the problem. Although we have a long way to go to solving this issue, every swimwear that we produce counts and we are slowly chipping away at this terrible killer. The more swimwear that we produce, does mean more dives that Carvico Vita can fund to recover these nets, as it is an extremely expensive and very dangerous task retrieving them. So just know, that your sustainable swimwear IS saving marine life and making a serious but great change to our oceans.

Wear your bikini proud. 

Thanks for checking out our first blog on ghost nets. Check back in as we’re constantly updating on what is happening out there. The more educated we are, the more we can spread the word and get closer to a real change.


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