‘Borneo Ghost Nets Hunters’, true friends of the sea

A diver helping to remove abandoned, destructive ghost nets.

MIRI, Oct 1: Lost or discarded fishing gear can trap and kill fish and other marine life. The same goes for lost fishing nets (ghost nets), which can also pollute the sea, damage coral reefs and endanger marine life for hundreds of years.

Early last month, a group of about 10 volunteer divers who call themselves ‘Borneo Ghost Nets Hunters’ successfully removed about 50kg of such nets. On their second outing, they removed another 106kg.

Team leader Iqbal Abdollah was delighted that more and more divers are willing to give a helping hand, including those from neighbouring Brunei.

The team that participated in the second outing comprised boat captain Zainal Lai, Jimmy Yong, Kevin Lim, Eileen Shee, Leo Chang, Siti Nur Azura, Eunice Teck Choi and Ken Szulczyk. Also in the group were Roger Sim, Gracia Ong and Peter from Brunei.

The Borneo Ghost Nets Hunter team posing for a group photo after successfully removing 106kg of ghost nets. Second from right(standing) is Iqbal.

“We had to do two dives to remove the nets covering more than 6,000 square metres of beautiful coral reefs of Gorgonian Sea Fan, Sea Whips, Hard and Soft Corals, and Sponges,” revealed Iqbal to DayakDaily.

He added that they also found dead Porcupine Fish and Banded Sea Urchin entangled in the nets.

“Approximately another 100 metres of nets are still underwater. They can harm marine life and kill coral reefs,” lamented Iqbal, who is also the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Miri branch chairman.

“Additionally, when the coral reefs are affected by the ghost nets, the fishermen’s catch will also be affected.”

He pointed out that ghost nets trapped and kill millions of marine life all over the world.

“The damage caused to the entangled corals and smothered reefs do introduce parasites and invasive species into the environment,” he said, adding that large predators such as dolphins and sharks often got trapped when they went for these entangled fish.

Ghost nets removal underway.

A 2009 UN Report estimated that abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear in the oceans made up roughly 10 per cent or 640,000 tonnes of all marine litter.

“The impact of fishing gear in the environment has also been exacerbated by the introduction of non-biodegradable fishing gear, primarily plastics, which are generally more persistent in the environment than natural materials,” said Iqbal, when citing the report.

He added that the next trip to remove ghost nets would be initiated soon, so he hoped more divers would join his team for its novel mission to clean up the sea for the good of all marine life.

For those interested to participate, call Co.Co. Dive Miri manager Jimmy Yong (+60128712281) or Roger Sim of CRK Elite Diving Brunei (+6738777968). — DayakDaily