Toolkit: Derelict Fishing Gear Retrieval, Implementing your project, Involving fishermen in retrieval

See also: Selection of locations | Timing of retrieval operations | Technical parameters for the vessels | Involving divers in retrieval | Reception of DFG at the port | Recycling and disposal | Monitoring DFG | Development of prevention and mitigation measures | Raising awareness of the causes and impact of DFG | Project communication

Commercial vessels carry a grapnel (commonly called a ‘creeper’) onboard to drag along the seabed to snag their own gear lost during fishing operations. In situations where vessels are retrieving their own lost gear, the position of the gear is accurate and retrieval is targeted.

However, in the dedicated DFG retrieval operations under your project, the information on the position of the DFG will be less precise. Therefore, the retrieval systems that you will have to deploy must be designed to cover bigger areas and will be constructed with multiple creeping devices. The creeping devices should be constructed such that the tearing through larger nets, leaving the balance of the gear behind, is reduced to a minimum. Sea floor depth and topography are impacting on the optimal design of the creeping devices.

A variety of creeper designs are used in DFG activities, all of which are more or less variations of the same general principles. The creeping device towed by the vessels involved in retrieval operations, conducted by WWF Poland in 2012, consisted of two ‘searching hooks’ mounted to a steel bar connected to a 12’’ rubber weight and of nine steel weights between the bar and the rubber weight. Such heavier devices, and the large vessels that are required to tow the device, are suitable for sandy seafloors, with few snagging points. However, if the seafloor is rougher, one would mainly get small fragments of netting. On such seafloors, smaller vessels and lighter dragging devices are required for efficient and effective retrieval.

 searching tool

searching tool, © WWF Poland 

DFG during regular fishing activities

Fishing vessels can assist in retrieving DFG during their regular fishing activities. Trawlers could also clean fishing grounds during regular fishing activities by limited dragging in areas with a high accumulation of DFG and/or by not cutting loose DFG on which their gear is snagged and by landing it. 

Fishing vessels are likely to experience increased labour costs from these activities. The proportion of towing time to the time taken to pull up the device is often unfavourable. To prevent the nets escaping from the ‘searching hooks’, the device must be pulled up very carefully, which often takes two to three hours and requires constant attention. Any haste leads to the loss of the nets caught. Your organisation could provide incentives to encourage fishermen to retrieve DFG encountered during regular fishing. This could be cost efficient, but you might provide fishermen with economic incentives to cover extra labour costs. You should also make sure that the fishermen can dispose of free of charge the DFG that they have retrieved on a voluntary basis.