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Topic: This is how you avoid ghost fishing

Hummerteina live

Research technician Lene Christensen checks the trap every day at 12 o'clock, on the dock at our research station in Flødevigen, Arendal.

Photo: Christine Fagerbakke / IMR

This is how we reduce the risk of fishing gear loss.

The Institute of Marine Research (IMR) has been researching ghost fishing for several years – the extent and consequences of it and different clen-up methods.  We also conduct research on capture technology.  Along the way, we have experienced and documented best practices for fishing, to reduce the risk of losing fishing gear.  

Here we present our tips for fishing with traps and other standing gear.
We would like to remind you that the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries administers regulations, and everyone who fishes in Norwegian waters, must familiarize themselves with the current rules.

1. Prepare the gear  

To avoid loss of fishing gear, it is important to thoroughly prepare the equipment.  

Check the ropes and knots, check that there is no wear and tear, and that the rope ends are fastened. Furthermore, there must be sufficient weight in the trap, especially when fishing in weather-exposed areas with a lot of currents. 

a) The trap must have enough weight so that it remains steady on the bottom and does not drift away with currents and waves. If you have a light trap, you should insert more weight (stone/weights are tied inside the trap) so that you are confident that it is securely grounded on the bottom. 

b) Install a cotton rot cord in the trap. Various statutory requirements for this can be found at the Directorate of Fisheries

c) Use undamaged rope of good quality and of suitable dimensions (8–10 mm fits in most cases).

d) Use clearly visible buoys with bright colours. Use buoys that are designed for fishing. Avoid the use of plastic jugs, etc. Net caps with at least 2 kg of buoyancy are a good alternative. 

e) Write your name, address and preferably telephone number on the buoy and on the trap itself. More information about the requirements when labelling gear can be found at the Directorate of Fisheries. 

f) Keep a floating rope on the bottom 5–7 metres of the trap rope, and a sink rope up to the buoy. The floating rope at the bottom reduces the risk of the rope becoming entangled on the bottom. Alternatively, a small net cap (more than 200 g buoyancy) can be mounted on the rope, 5 to 7 metres from the trap. 

g) If you are going to fish in currents and exposed areas, attach an approx. 5-meter-long sinking rope 1.5 meters below the main buoy. Attach an additional buoy at the end of this rope. This ensures that you find the equipment even in strong currents. If a buoy is lost, there is still one left. NB: Ensure there is plenty of weight in the trap.

2. Setting the gear

a) In outer coastal areas there may occasionally be very strong currents. In combination with bad weather, this increases the risk of gear loss. If you are not an experienced fisher, put your gear in more protected locations. 

b) Check the weather forecast. If a lot of wind and waves are forecasted over the next few days, put the gear into more protected waters. The longer the gear is left from setting to pulling, the more protected the area should be.   

c) Avoid putting the gear in fairways and where there is a lot of boat traffic. Gear is often lost when propellers from other boats cut the rope. 

d) Keep an eye on the depth. The depth must not be more than approx. 2/3 of the rope length from trap to buoy. Beware of steep slopes. If you put the trap where it is steep or in unknown terrain, hold on to the rope until you feel that the trap is safely grounded on the bottom. 

e) If you have a GPS, mark where the gear is set. This makes it much easier to search for it in the event of gear loss.

3. Pulling and possible retrieval of gear

a) The longer the gear is in the sea, the greater the likelihood that it will be lost. Therefore, check and haul the gear regularly. There are statutory minimum requirements for how often to look at the gear. You will find this at the Directorate of Fisheries. Even if precautions have been taken, the fishing gear can still be lost. 

b) Have a boathook/sweeping hook with a long rope on board. Searching for gear takes some practice. 

c) If you cannot find the gear, it should be reported. This can be done through the Directorate of Fisheries' recreational fishing app  «Fritidsfiskeappen». By reporting the loss, there is a greater chance that it will be found by others, such as divers, and a greater chance that you will get it back.