Ingenious Innovation: Biodegradable and Traceable Fishing Nets

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It has hopefully not escaped anyone that our oceans are subjected to enormous threats. Overwhelming forces in the form of global warming and overfishing are increasingly present, but just as alarming is the large amount of waste floating around.

Mistbreaker earlier reported about the Google-backed initiative combating overfishing around the world, a truly remarkable initiative. Now, another since long asked-for innovation has finally seen the light of day. We are talking about biodegradable fishing nets which also can get tracked down by its owners if they are lost.

Lost fishing nets are causing huge problems for marine wildlife and biodiversity. According to Earth Island, the large nets wander around in the ocean collecting a plethora of animals and organisms which make the net eventually sink towards the bottom. The nets harm coral reefs and general life in the depths; it can wipe out entire lineages of important bottom dwellers such as lobsters or crabs, for instance. As what is caught in net eventually breaks down the nets starts to float around again, and the disastrous process enters another cycle of destruction.

Lost nets are referred to as “ghost nets”, which seems to be a fitting description regarding their nature. Killing wildlife by mere catches is actually just one part of the problem. Since fishing nets are typically made of nylon or other synthetic plastics, harmful microscopic particles eventually starts to break loose off the nets and spread in the water. At the same time as these particles harm the environment, the intact main structure of the nets can still continue to trap animals for decades. Eventually the nets are disintegrated into tiny pieces of plastic that fish and numerous other marine organisms mistake for food.

The innovation that might help solve these problems is called Remora, which breaks down in a non-harmful way if it is lost or abandoned. An article from Springwise covers the breakthrough arrival of the new net, which degrades more safely and quickly. However, as a fisherman you would naturally never by a product that dissolves too quickly, so the Remora nets break down and disappear after being in the water for 4-5 years.

Also, a great part of the fishing nets floating around have not been dumped but merely lost. The fishermen would like to get back their nets if the possibility existed, instead of buying new ones. Thus, the nets are equipped with plastic tags embedded with RFID chips traceable with a smartphone application. The tags can inform trawlers if a piece of the enormous net has broken away and choose to go after it. With the help of this technology they can go after the piece in order to repair the net, or report the location to one of the numerous non-profits working with the challenge of keeping the oceans free of ghost nets.

The inventor, a Spanish design student named Alejandro Plasencia, told Dezeen that his team were looking for a very simple, cheap, small and unobtrusive piece of technology which could enter the system and make a huge difference, when they came up with the RFID solution. Hopefully, the future for Remora looks bright.  In any case, the initiative’s quest to get rid of ghost nets and prevent plastic soups from ever occurring is inspiring and tremendously eye-opening.

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