A total of 800 kilograms of ‘ghost nets’ were retrieved from Cape Greco by the Enalia Physis Environmental Research Centre during the Dixan Clean in Depth environmental programme.

Ghost nets are fishing nets that have either been lost, intentionally discarded, or simply abandoned at sea due to their entanglement on the sea floor. Since modern fishing gear is mostly made of non-biodegradable synthetic fibres, they can remain in the marine environment for hundreds of years.

In addition to polluting and altering the natural marine environment, they can continue to capture marine species for long periods of time (such as fish, molluscs, echinoderms, turtles, and mammals), a phenomenon known as ‘ghost fishing’.

The programme operated under the auspices of the agriculture ministry. It launched in the summer of 2020 and with the help of technical divers, it successfully manages to retrieve “tons” of waste from the sea floor of Cyprus.

The first week of August was devoted to the exploration and identification of areas with abandoned and damaged nets and bottom long lines in depths of 20 to 45 meters.

During the second week of August, targeted dives were carried out to remove ghost nets that were deemed necessary in their original assessment.

Cape Greco’s marine habitats consist of healthy, diverse meadows of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica, rocky reefs and intertidal hard substrate habitats – an ideal environment for organisms of all taxa – and by submerged or semi-submerged caves that increase the habitat heterogeneity and complexity of the area.

At least 640,000 tons of fishing gear is left in the oceans each year and it has been estimated that some fish stocks have declined by five to 30 per cent, deeply affecting the people that depend on them for food and livelihood.

Furthermore, 71 per cent of marine animal entanglements involve ghost gear, and it is estimated that approximately 136,000 large whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and turtles are captured in them.

Ghost gear is estimated to release substantial amounts of macro and microplastics into the ocean.

This results in a series of toxic effects on marine life including growth and development disorders, impacting their feeding and behavioural ability, causing reproductive and immunity toxicity, genetic damage and many more; indirectly impacting the fishing industry and consumers’ health.

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