Marine Protection Areas (MPAs) play a fundamental role, not only in the conservation of species, but also through exporting biomass to surrounding fishing areas. As a result fishing around (and even within) MPAs is often intense, causing huge environmental impacts. These impacts include lost fishing gear which can cause risks to navigation, facilitate the transport of invasive species and cause ghost fishing. In 2009 the Lost Fishing Gear Project (Petrechos de Pesca Perdidos no Mar) was established to tackle the problem of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) in the waters off the coast of Brazil.
The Lost Fishing Gear Project is the first of its kind in Brazil and was developed following requests from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It involves a partnership between the Forestry Foundation and the Fisheries Institute of the Department of Agriculture of São Paulo State.
The project is focused on mapping habitats within the MPA around Brazil and removing abandoned or discarded fishing gear from the water. Sidescan sonar, a towed underwater camera, and a remote operating vehicle (ROV) are used to conduct the surveys. This equipment has made it possible to detect ALDFG on the sea floor.
The project goal is to identify, quantify and map ALDFG and, in collaboration with conservation partners, promote preventive measures within the fisheries sector.
A methodology called Blue Line System was developed and implemented to deliver the project as follows:
- Preventive phase (short phase): A series of actions are implemented with industry, traders and fishermen to increase environmental awareness and consequently reduce ALDFG.
- Mitigation phase (long phase): Lost fishing gear is identified, removed from the sea and analysed through scientific research. It is then moved to an appropriate destination for recycling to prevent it causing more damage to marine life.
Based on the results of these phases the project leaders hope to quantify the negative impacts of fishing, minimise the environmental and socio-economic losses caused by lost fishing gear and promote actions to reduce further loss of fishing gear.
Since the project started in 2009 over 2 tonnes of lost fishing gear have been removed during clean-up diving campaigns in Laje de Santos Marine State Park, Xixová-Japuí State Park, Ecological Station of Tupinambás, Ecological Station of Tupiniquins and the Biological Reserve of the Arvoredo.
Since the project started in 2009 over 2 tonnes of lost fishing gear have been removed
Hundreds of hectares have been mapped within the MPA and this is improving decision making. MPA managers now have a better understanding of the quality of habitats, vulnerable spots and the clean index of surveyed areas.