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First Żibel Cleanup for the month of Autumn – Recovered One of the Longest Ghost Nets.

Published: October 27, 2023 - 16:23
Updated: October 27, 2023 - 16:23
First Żibel Cleanup for the month of Autumn – Recovered One of the Longest Ghost Nets.

Żibel holds the first Autumn cleanup and successfully removes trash from the bottom of the sea once again. With over 50 volunteers in groups with differing roles, a tonne of rubbish was brought to the surface.

The site

Ta’ Gillieru is located on the north-facing coast of Malta on the peninsula of St Paul’s Bay, Bugibba, and Qawra. It is a sheltered artificial beaching spot that attracts numerous visitors yearly. Its environs are rich in entertainment including restaurants, shops and bars.

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Zibel cleanup

The area around the cleanup location is a wide promenade suitable for walks at any time during the day. The promenade connects with the breakwater that shelters the mooring boats from northerly winds. It hugs around the water where several activities occur: fishermen preparing their lines, a harbour boat collecting and unloading tourists, water sports activities, and even swimming.

Bugibba Bay Cleanup

A total of 1002 kilograms of trash was brought to the surface. The value is composed of numerous materials that do not get recycled. The most collected material were plastics, that weighed just over 300 kilograms. The runner-up was a number of tyres that altogether weighed 250 kilograms, followed by metal pieces weighing 143kilograms.

The Tragedy of Ghost Nets

One of the main endeavours of the day was to recover a ghost net that was placed on the main cleanup boat. The net was recovered during previous dives and is one of the longest nets the NGO has ever faced. With the help of several volunteers, the ghost net was carefully brought off the boat and spread out on land revealing its length. The volunteers got to experience handling a ghost net which was in fact a strenuous task if done alone.

Ghost nets are abandoned fishing lines, whether lost or discarded in a body of water. They travel along currents until they get caught on a jagged rock and become entangled. Sadly, ghost nets are the major contributors that make up fishing gear that ends up in the sea causing major chaos to marine life. They trap and kill numerous animals including dolphins, sharks, turtles, fish and even avifauna species. Moreover, ghost nets drag along surfaces and smother coral reefs killing anything in its way.

There are several reasons why fishing nets transform into ghost nets. In fact, the discarding of the nets is often unintentional.

  • Some gear ends up in the sea due to it being misplaced while drying out on the beaches and eventually wind blows them into the water.
  • Recycling methods are often lacking and thus the fishermen opt for improper disposal by throwing the gear overboard or abandoning it on a beach.
  • Broken nets are expensive to repair and maintain so fishermen choose to purchase new gear and discard their old one.
  • Once nets are lost, they can become costly to recover, and thus discourages fishermen from retrieving their missing gear. Moreover, the recovering of such gear can also be time consuming.
  • Even though trawling is forbidden in numerous countries, it is still practiced in several others. These activities can easily vandalise fisheries’ nets and destroy them into pieces, leaving debris.
  • Several unreported or illegal fishing puts fishermen under pressure when approached by law enforcement officials, forcing them to quickly dump their gear to escape.
  • Nets have a capacity of weight and size it can contain. If this value is exceeded, the net ends up damaged or broken leaving net debris behind.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to properly understand the full extent of the impacts ghost nets have on the environment. However, their effect on marine life is detrimental and certainly the main source for marine fatalities. Ghost nets are some of the main polluting objects that kill animals not only from entanglement. Some animals ingest part of the fishing gear and end up suffering from an array of anatomical issues including sepsis, starvation, gastrointestinal tract perforation and obstruction. Ghost nets are a worldwide issue and have to be tackled as a unit. Their consequences outweigh their benefit and once their use is controlled, our oceans’ biodiversity will recover.

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About author

Jasmine Mifsud
Jasmine Mifsud, who hails from Malta, has an incredible interest in the water surrounding the small island. Her passion for the sea is not surprising, since as a little girl, her biggest dream was to explore the oceans. This ambition created its own pathway as every decision she ever made led her to become an influential woman who decided to create a life for herself instead of living in someone else’s shoes. As time flew by, she became more adventurous and curious about our blue planet. She specialized in environmental sciences and took a tangent route into maritime archaeology, which she considers to be one of her best decisions to date. Throughout her journey, she has built friendships with some of the most inspiring divers globally, all of whom share unique experiences and stories worth listening to. As a young woman in the industry, her journey has only just begun.
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