Ghost nets in West Africa: The invisible killer of our oceans

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What are ghost nets?

The oceans are vital to our survival, providing us with food, oxygen, and climate regulation. However, the oceans also face an unprecedented threat from pollution, overfishing, and climate change. One of the most significant threats to ocean health is the proliferation of ghost nets, which are lost or abandoned fishing nets that continue to trap and kill marine life.

The impact of ghost nets on marine life in West Africa

The impact of ghost nets on marine life along the coastal communities in West Africa is significant. They severely threaten ocean health and coastal communities. The coastal waters off of West Africa are rich in fish and other marine life, making them prime targets for fishing. Every year, thousands of dolphins, turtles, sharks, and other marine animals are killed by ghost nets along the Coast.

For example, in Ghana, the widespread use of harmful methods such as illegal fishing nets that indiscriminately captures fish including the young ones, has led to the decline in fish stocks. Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) figures show that the fishing industry contributed 2.5% and 2.3% to Ghana’s GDP in 2009 and 2010 respectively. But, as per the latest available statistics, it has seen a decline and only accounted for 1.1% of Ghana’s GDP in 2016.

Ghost nets’ impact on marine life is not limited to the animals that become entangled in them; they also damage coral reefs, seagrass beds, and other vital habitats. This can lead to the decline of entire ecosystems and the loss of valuable fisheries. It affects the ocean biodiversity and the lives of the people who rely on it for their livelihoods. Furthermore, ghost nets after a prolonged period in the oceans break down into small plastic particles that are ingested by marine life, with unknown long-term effects on the marine ecology and humans who consume the fish. Ghost nets threaten marine life, their habitat, and the coastal communities that depend on them for their livelihoods.

Cleaning the ocean from ghost nets

The good news is that cleaning the ocean from ghost nets is possible, and there are many organizations and individuals working to do so. Local fishermen are being trained and organized to conduct regular cleanups of ghost nets in their coastal waters. They are encouraged to report abandoned nets to the authorities to remove them safely. Some organizations also work to recycle recovered ghost nets and turn them into new products such as bags, bathing suits, other types of clothing and home decor to raise awareness about the problem and provide an alternative income for the fisher communities.

Addressing the underlying causes of ghost net pollution

However, cleaning up ghost nets is only one step in protecting ocean health. We must also address the underlying causes of ghost net pollution, such as poor fishing practices and inadequate regulations that are not enforced. This includes promoting sustainable fishing methods and increasing enforcement of fishing regulations to prevent ghost nets from entering the ocean in the first place.

It is crucial that we take action to protect the ocean from ghost nets, as well as other forms of pollution. This requires a collective effort from all sectors of society, including governments, industries, and individuals. Working with our partners in West Africa, ACC can make a real difference in protecting ocean health and preserving it for future generations.

The ghost net project in Ghana and Senegal

The ghost net project is an initiative that aims to protect the ocean from the harmful effects of ghost nets in Ghana and Senegal with an aim to increase throughout the coastal countries of West Africa. We are working in partnership with local organizations and communities to remove ghost nets from beaches and coastal waters, raise awareness about the problem and provide an alternative income for the communities.

The project aims to improve ocean health by removing ghost nets from the sea, preventing marine animals from getting entangled, and protecting habitats like coral reefs and seagrass beds. By working with local communities, we can also improve the livelihoods of fishermen, who are often the most impacted by ghost nets.

Protecting ocean health for future generations

As part of the project, we are launching a series of activities such as community clean-ups, collection points where fisherman can sell their discarded nets, recycling of the nets to become thread for clothes and accessories, as well as, training programs and advocacy campaigns to create awareness and inform the public about the dangers of ghost nets on ocean life and habitat. Our goal is to make a real impact on the lives of coastal communities in West Africa. We encourage local communities, companies and individuals to join us in this project and make a difference in protecting ocean health and preserving it for future generations.