Ghost Nets and Sea Monsters

For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it. – Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Ghost nets truly are sea monsters. A ghost net is fishing gear that is either lost or intentionally dumped into the ocean. It is estimated that every year hundreds of thousands of tons of ghost nets, and related lines, pots and traps are tossed into the oceans around the world. I took out the five pounds or so of ghost net in the photo during just a few minutes of walking. I washed it because I plan to reuse it for art projects. The plastic is so woven into the other debris that it is easily mistaken for plants. Fishing nets are designed to catch sea animals and ghost nets kill millions of animals a year. Sea Monsters are real, and these monstrous bits came from the enormous Great Pacific Garbage Patch, aka Pacific trash Vortex.

The bird in this photo choked to death on several pieces of plastic lodged in its throat and guts. The plastic resembles food and once animals gulp it down it blocks their digestive tracts or gets stuck in their throats. I see this too often. Scientists estimate that around 46% of the plastic pollution in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from ghost nets and gear. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is about 550 nautical miles from my home beach. I am not a math wizard – I used this NOAA website: A nautical mile is used in air, sea and space navigation. It is one minute of of latitude – 1852 meters. So about 1018 kilometers, or 632 miles west of me there is a giant garbage monster about the size of Mongolia or South Africa.

World mythology is filled with tales of sea monsters: Kraken, Hydra, Cthulhu, to name a few. There are thousands of tales where everyday people defeat monsters. We can all act heroically by taking better care of the Earth, and help clean up the mess others have left behind. To conquer this man-made leviathan of plastic pollution, will require all the human ingenuity we can muster. This is not just a coastal problem. Micro-plastics can be found throughout the food chain. We are what we eat, and we are eating plastic everyday. According to research from the World Wildlife Fund: the average person consumes 2000 pieces – Five grams of plastic a week; 250 grams a year. That is the equivalent of eating a credit card each week.

You can download a PDF of the report HERE

Let’s fight this monster. First, stop throwing plastic into the environment. Solutions could include: It would be possible to add identification to all fishing gear. These could be sewn into the material in several places which would allow the gear to be tracked back to its source. This would require an international agreement. But wouldn’t it be worth it for the future generations of our beautiful planet. The plastic will take hundreds of years to break down, unless a widely available bio-engineered plastic eating bacteria becomes available. It could also be possible that some mechanical mechanism will be invented that patrols the open ocean and cleans up this mess.

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. What we cannot do is throw in the towel and quit. As for me, I am picking up the ghost nets when I find them on my walks in addition to recycling, I am looking for ways to upcycle the ghost nets into art, which I can sell and contribute to a global environmental fund. As with all environmental problems, we can all do our small part to make this world a better place. It is the worst of times but it is the best of times because we still have a chance. Sylvia Earle, marine biologist

Here are a couple sites where you can learn more about plastics in nature:

World Wildlife Fund – Plastics in Nature

National Geographic- Microplastics

Published by cewheeler

Writer/Artist:12 years in China – univ. lecturer: writing,poetry,culture; editor – magazine/newspaper & actor. 40 years students of the Tao. Traveler. Father. Read my books at:

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