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08 Feb Net Effect Interns Blog

The WCAs Net Effect Campaign is designed specifically to raise awareness of ghost gear or discarded active fishing gear and the threat to cetaceans when entangled in ghost gear. This crisis affects all animals in the ocean and is perhaps the greatest threat to survival of whales and marine life in our lifetime.

Ghost gear is by definition fishing nets, pots, and lines accidentally or even deliberately left or lost at sea. This gear can entangle fish, dolphins, whales, sea turtles, sharks, and other marine life.  Nets effectively restrict movement, cause starvation, and suffocate animals that need to return to the surface to breathe. They kill over 100,000 marine mammals and countless other wildlife every year.

To develop and launch the Net Effect Campaign, in 2016 the WCA interviewed and selected nine voluntary interns (volunterns) for its Field Research and Environmental Education program. Their aim is to provide educational tools, strengthen research data and raise public awareness on how to reduce the global impact of ghost fishing gear and entanglement of cetaceans.

Over a 3-6 month period interns gained experience at WCA Headquarters in the UK and then with a chosen WCA Responsible Whale Watch Tour Operator Partner in another country (Europe, North America, Latin America, or Africa).

The initial phase of the campaign is to create and provide educational materials on ghost fishing gear and entanglement crisis to marine educators worldwide.  Interns are being trained as naturalist guides by delivering on board talks during their time with WCA Whale Watch Partners.  Focused talks on ghost fishing gear and entanglement introduces the public to the issue and engages them in activities designed to raise personal awareness.  And, finally interns share actions and ways the public can help solve the problem.

WCA’s Net Effect Campaign Partners spend a combined 4000 days at sea, often searching for ghost gear and reporting/releasing entangled wildlife as part of their tourism activities.  Through our WCA partners we aim to talk about the Net Effect with 500,000 people on the water.

By building a network of trained WCA advocates we hope to discover and measure the scale of the problem by identifying hotspots worldwide.   Information and data will be fed into the work of the wider partnership called the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI).

Perhaps with public awareness the devastating effects of ghost gear on the global marine environment can be reversed.  Partnered with recovery initiatives we can restore the health and wellbeing of our oceans and its inhabitants for generations to come.

Rose Anne Everson

WCA Net Effect Intern

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