Experts gather to address derelict fishing problem

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Posted on Aug 07 2000

World experts on derelict fishing gear will gather at the International Marine Debris Conference Aug. 7 to 11 at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.

Sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, the conference will address the Pacific-wide nature of lost or discarded fishing gear and its impacts on marine and endangered species, coral reefs and other important aspects of the marine environment.

The ultimate goal is to develop specific recommendations and strategies for action.

“One of our goals is to sensitize people to the problem of marine debris,” Allen Tom, Sanctuary manager said. “Previously, this problem may have gone unnoticed or left people with the feeling that they have no power to solve it. The good news is that our partners in the commercial fishing industry, the science community, government policy makers and environmental organizations share the same goals, including how to minimize the risks.”

Derelict fishing gear is marine debris made up mostly of natural fiber and synthetic lines from trawl, drift, seine and gill nets, and often includes ropes, lightsticks and traps.
In the Pacific region derelict fishing gear damages coral reefs and impacts marine species. In Hawaii, it can also impact recreational fishermen, commercial fishermen, divers and ocean tourism businesses in general.

“The primary effect that marine debris has on recreational trolling fishermen is entanglement of lines and motors by balls of nets,” Bill Mossman, Hawaii recreational fisherman, said. “Marine debris to the recreational fisherman, in many instances, acts like a FAD [fish aggregating device] because fish are attracted to it, but it can get expensive if the nets get caught in the propeller.”

“Cleaning up marine debris has been part of my business for the last five years,” Randy Cates, Hawaii commercial fisherman, said. “Our volunteers clean up 6,000-8,000 pounds of marine debris every year from waters off the Windward coast of Hawaii. It’s really damaging when it hits the reefs. Once it washes ashore, it’s an eyesore, but it’s already done its damage.”

“Divers get a first hand view of marine debris and its harmful effects on the environment,” Frank Farm, Alii Holo Kai Dive Club, said. “They know it does harm to the reefs and it’s an unnatural thing to see down there, like rubbish in your living room.”

“Our business is ocean tourism and from a commercial perspective there is a tremendous value to having healthy marine ecosystems,” Terry O’Halloran, Atlantis Adventures, said.
“Hawaii is known for its clean ocean environment and marine debris degrades the quality of experience visitors have come to expect.”

Please direct questions regarding registration to the International Marine Debris Conference c/o the Maui Pacific Center, 590 Lipoa Parkway, Suite 202, Kihei, HI 96753, phone (808) 875-2317, fax (808) 875-2306 or e-mail: info@mauipacific.org. Visit the conference website at ww.hihwnms.nos.noaa.gov for daily conference updates.

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