Ghost Fishing


Fishing debris

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Featured Solution


Baseline Research.

Our survey results between January 2018 and January 2022 showed that snagged fishing tackle from recreational fishing does pose a Ghost Fishing threat to inshore reef fish.

Ghost Fishing

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Recovered tackle




Ghost Fishing
Finding a solution for recreational fishing pollution




Loosing Fish Stocks to Ghost Fishing.

Shoreline Fishing in South Africa is both a popular recreational past time and necessary subsidence activity as a means of supplementing dietary protein requirements distinguished by socio economic circumstances of the fishermen.

Ghost fish shyshark

Puffadder Shyshark killed by ghost fishing. The rust mark of the hook can be seen on the left hand side of the jaw. Doubly tragic is the fact that this female had two eggs ready to lay which also died as a result of her death.


The Cost To Marine Biodiversity.

Equipment is determined by budget with sports and recreational shark fisherman using expensive and sophisticated tackle while subsistence fishermen use a more simple setup, often a hand line with small hooks and a single in line sinker. How fishing tackle is set up and where fishing takes places influences both the rate of snagging and the manner in which gear snags. Ultimately how and where line fishing occurs determines the rate of snagging, damage to reefs,and the threat of ghost fishing and entanglements.



What is Ghost Fishing?

Ghost fishing is defined as the ability for lost fishing gear to continue catching and killing fish. Most of the research on ghost fishing focuses on the impact of industrial fishing, such as trawling and long lining, when gear is lost with little attention or research placed on the impact of recreational surf fishing.

Research has shown that a snagged fishing hook has the latent ability to 'ghost fish' up to 10 fish before it disintegrates. The ramifications on inshore fishing stocks is severe.


Tackling Ghost Fishing?

Our survey dives have shown that both location and tackle setup determine how fishing gear snags. Tackle setup to target game fish and sharks snags when the sinker caught on the rocky reef. The baited hook then floats above the seabed and reef. Some gear has been setup with floats attached to the shaft of the hook which further increases the buoyancy of the baited hook, presenting the perfect opportunity to ghost fish.

Smooth Houd Shark


Geared up for Research.

On our first dive we were all equipped with bags to collect recovered fishing debris in. This proved to be inefficient as the bags filled up. The sinker made divers negatively buoyant and the monofilament tended to drift out of the bags each time it was opened to put more tackle in.

We then setup some floating buckets, buoyed by an inner tube and anchored with a line attached to a 2kg weight. The buckets are then left floating on the surface and divers swim to them when they need to off load collected tackle.



Preliminary Findings


Snagged Hook


Gericke's Point

Ocean Fishing.

As a peninsula which offers shore based access to open ocean, Gericke's Point attracts primarily sports fishermen and fishermen targeting sharks.

Sports Fishing.

Gear recovered from the Gericke's Point transect are mainly large hooks with 40% using steel tracers and braided line in conjunction with monofilament.

The tackle snags on the reef with the sinker while the baited hook floats free.

Ghost Fishing.

Some of the tackle is rigged with a small soft float attached directly on the hook shaft which further increases the buoyancy of the baited hooks.

Between Jan 2018 and October 2019, 709 lead sinkers were recovered from 12 dives on a 100m transect. On each dive we recover a mean of 63 sinkers and 20 hooks from the 100m Transect. Approximately 25% of hooks recovered are rigged with floats on the hook shaft.

These hooks present a very real #Ghost Fishing threat on the reef and till January 2022 we have recorded 5 species of fish that have died this way at Gericke's Point.


Paquita Wreck

Estuary Fishing.

Located in the Knysna Estuary, Paquita Wreck site is frequently by subsistence fishermen and part time recreational fishermen.

Subsistence Fishing.

Most of the tackle used are small hooks and small in line sinkers. Both rods and hand lines are used.

Snagging of fishing tackle occurs when the hooks snag on Red bait (Pyura stolonifera) pods which encrust the reef.

This snagging doesn't present a ghost fishing threat as the hook is not available for fish to take.

We have only been able to conduct two survey dives at this site due to weather, tide and current conditions.

Reef Damage.

Further studies will attempt to investigate the impact of fishing debris on the invertebrate and algal life on the reef.


Kingfisher Creek

Community Fishing.

Kingfisher Creek is located in the Sedgefield estuary and is frequented by subsistence fishermen.

Socio Economic Fishing.

Both hand lines and rods are used and recovered tackle is of small hooks and small in line sinkers.

Snagging occurs when the hooks get caught in the beds of Brown Mussels (Perna perna) which encrust the submerged reef and columns in the channel.

The estuary is a blind estuary and has been closed most of the time during the study period. Only 3 dive transects have been conducted due to poor visibility.

Bird Entanglement.

The fishing debris doesn't only pose a ghost fishing threat, but monofilament can pose an entanglement threat to diving birds species like cormorants.

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