This news is both very satisfying yet extremely troubling. While free-diving off the shore of Kaunolū on Hawaii’s island of Lanai, came across a rare glimpse of a whale shark. The excitement quickly disappeared as they realized the krill-eating shark had become entangled in fishing net.
After noticing the rope, Kapua Kawelo and her husband Joby Rohrer jumped into action and decided to cut the rope off. Using his experience as a free-diver, Rohrer dove down again and again at depths of 50 feet to slowly cut the ropes.
A half an hour later, the rope was cut free.
By looking at the whale shark, it appears that the rope has been strangling the fish for a few months as barnacles had colonized where the rope had been.
Thankfully, the whale shark is now safe, free and appears to be healthy but the fact that the problem occurred is very troubling. Overfishing and ghost gear are one of the biggest concerns to the oceans as it has become a plague. According to a recent report by World Animal Protection, more than 700,000 tons of new ghost gear enters the oceans every year.
Damage from ghost gear has been found to significantly impact coral reefs, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, birds, and a variety of fish. Once the animal becomes entangled, they rarely are able to escape, typically leading to death.
The swallowing of fishing gear is a huge concern as well. It can lead to malnutrition, digestive blockages, poor health, and death.
World Animal Protection is taking their findings and directly applying it to try and solve the issue. The group has created Global Ghost Gear Initiative where they are aiming to develop solutions to the issue of ghost fishing equipment. Solutions thus far have including retrieving and recycling fishing gear, manufacturing biodegradable equipment, and marking fishing nets as this can reduce the frequency with which they are discarded.