Rangers are urging fishers to clean up after themselves after a record-breaking number of illegal crab pots revealed a worrying reality.
Marine park rangers and fisheries officers made the discovery along the Pumicestone Passage — a narrow pristine waterway between Bribie Island and the mainland in Queensland — after launching a 3-day clean-up operation.
What they found was a large amount of trapped marine life in 195 abandoned crab pots, including fish, turtles, crabs, dugongs, dolphins and sharks.
It's a "big issue" Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Senior Ranger Mike Carr said.
"What happens when these crab pots become derelict is that they continue to 'ghost fish', so animals will go inside to get trapped and then die," he told Yahoo News Australia. "And then that will attract more animals into it who die. So they continue to attract fish and different species of marine life."
Ghost fishing refers to old nets being left, continuing to harm marine life.
He also said the nylon on crab pots take "hundreds of years" to break down in the ocean, causing a large amount of pollution.
What to do to avoid 'ghost fishing'
Luckily several animals were able to be rescued from the pots unharmed, including fish, crabs and wobbegong sharks, the QLD Department of Environment and Science said — but that won't always be the case.
Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol District Officer Tom Richards is urging fishers to "crab responsibly".
"Check crab pots regularly and remove them from the water when they are not being used,” Mr Richards said in a statement. "Make sure crab pots are heavy enough with the correct length of rope attached to the float to prevent them from being lost or dragged underwater in strong currents, and that the pots and floats are correctly labelled.
"We also recommend pots are fitted with escape hatches and are kept submerged to prevent birds and other wildlife from being accidentally captured. This also ensures marine species caught in the pots, including female and undersized crabs, are not exposed to sun and can be released alive."
Additionally, people should be labelling their names and address on crab pots, otherwise they are deemed as illegal.Anyone who comes across entangled, stranded, injured, or deceased marine animals should immediately report it to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service by calling 1300 130 372.
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