Death by fishing net

Photo credit: Dr. Dwayne Meadows, NOAA

Fishing nets are designed to catch and kill fish, I get it. But a fishing net is supposed to be used by fishermen, I mean fisherpeople, to catch fish and then it’s supposed to be removed from the ocean until next time. But alas, all too often fishing nets become a unique weapon of mass destruction as ocean trash.

In a research paper published by Marine Pollution Bulletin, scientists Jeff Jacobsen, Liam Massey and Fances Gulland take a close look at two stranded sperm whales that washed up along California’s north coast in 2008. One whale had no obvious signs of trauma while the other was extremely skinny and clearly in poor shape. A necropsy was performed on each whale revealing that both died from ingesting fishing nets.

The whale that looked okay from the outside had “a large mass of compacted netting…protruding through a rupture in the third compartment of the stomach.” While the skinny whale ate so much fishing gear, including nets and line, plus plastic bags that the stomach was blocked and the the poor whale starved to death.

All together both whales’ stomachs contained “134 different types of netting,” so sad. But the worst part is that most of the netting was true trash, left over netting from repairs that ended up in the ocean! According to the sleuth scientists: “All the pieces had at least one cut edge, most had ragged holes torn in them, some had hand stitching, all suggesting that these scraps had been discarded during repairs.”

Throw your fishing net waste in the trash fisherpeople! You could save sperm whales and many other marine mammals from an untimely demise.

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