Untangling the Threads: A Deep Dive into Trawl Ropes and Nets

Trawl Ropes and Nets: The Role of Optical Ropes and Nets in Modern Fishing Practices

Introduction

Commercial fishing vessels globally use trawl nets pulled along the seafloor to catch bottom-dwelling species such as shrimp, groundfish, and crabs. These trawl nets are connected by strong ropes and cables to boats that can be many miles away. Unfortunately, trawl ropes and nets can become lost or discarded during fishing activities, where they continue to "ghost fish" and entangle marine life. In this article, we will examine the causes of lost or discarded trawl gear and its environmental impacts.

Causes of Lost or Discarded Gear

There are a few key reasons why trawl ropes and nets can become abandoned at sea:

Ropes Breaking or Snagging

Trawl ropes and cables are subjected to immense stress and tension as nets are pulled through the water. Over time, these ropes become weakened through abrasion and wear. They can suddenly snap or break when hit by unexpected debris on the seafloor. Ropes may also get permanently tangled or snagged on underwater obstructions like boulders or wrecked ships.

Poor Weather Conditions

Rough seas and heavy storms make fishing and gear retrieval very dangerous and difficult. Fishermen may need to cut ropes and discard gears for their own safety if a storm suddenly strikes. Strong winds and waves can also cause ropes to break more easily.

Accidental Loss

On rare occasions, entire nets or sections may fall off trawlers accidentally due to mechanical issues with net rolling equipment. Improperly secured ropes have also been known to slip off deck during hauling.

Deliberate Discarding

In some cases, ropes and nets nearing the end of their usable lifespan may be deliberately abandoned by fishermen seeking to avoid the costs and labor of proper disposal.

Impacts on Marine Life

Abandoned trawl gear continues to “ghost fish” and can have severe unintended ecological consequences:

Entanglement and Drowning

Lost ropes and nets effecti