Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[op-ed snap] Unclogging our oceans


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Ghost gears problem and innovative solutions to tackle it


The problem of ghost gears in oceans

  1. There are many reports of divers regularly making underwater trips just to extract nets that have sunk to the ocean floor off India’s coasts, ranging from Tamil Nadu to Maharashtra
  2. The problem of ghost gear (any fishing equipment that has been lost, discarded or abandoned in water bodies) has grown from a fishing fallout that people had not heard of to one that is now difficult to ignore

The threat to ocean species

  1. Between 2011 and 2018 alone, the Olive Ridley Project, a U.K. registered charity that removes ghost nets and protects sea turtles, recorded 601 sea turtles being entangled in ghost gear near the Maldives, of which 528 were Olive Ridleys — the same species that come in thousands to Odisha’s coasts to nest
  2. Other casualties worldwide include whales, dolphins, sharks and even pelagic birds
  3. In 2016, over 5,400 marine animals belonging to 40 different species were recorded as entangled in ghost gear or associated with it
  4. Ghost nets are often ‘ghost fishers’
  5. Ocean currents carry them for thousands of km across the ocean floor, ensnaring, injuring and drowning marine life and damaging live corals along the way

Impact on the economy

  1. The consequences of overfishing, using nets of the smallest mesh size, and illegal fishing are worrying
  2. Entire fishing communities are affected by these actions, especially in developing countries like India where the demand for fish keeps rising

How to tackle the problem of ghost gears?

  1. In countries like Canada and Thailand, fishermen retain their used nets; these are recycled into yarn to craft socks and even carpet tiles
  2. A gear-marking programme is being tested in Indonesia so that the trajectory of gear if it drifts away, can be studied better
  3. In one instance in India, ghost nets hauled from Kerala’s Kollam have been used to pave roads

Way forward

  1. India can emulate innovative solutions from across the world to tackle the problem of ghost gear
  2. Efforts to carry out transformation over 7,500 km of India’s coasts, as well as inland water bodies, are the need of the hour
  3. Outreach and education among fishing communities would be crucial along with policy-level changes
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