Lost nets and fishing gear could be removed from the ocean using new technologies in a move that would help reduce the risk of marine life being injured or dying from human debris in the ocean.
Known as "ghost nets," the equipment can stifle coral reefs, damage habitats, catch fish, birds and mammals. The nets also decompose over time, increasing the amount of microplastic (plastic less than 5 mm long) that obstructs the sea and enters the food chain.
Researchers at Newcastle University say the NetTag project could help by attaching low-cost location devices to fishing equipment to help recover it if it gets adrift, as can often happen during storms.
& # 39; Transponders & # 39; would be about the size of a box of matches and would cost around £ 100. The networks themselves can cost thousands, with developers stressing that there is a financial incentive for fishermen to get involved in the project as well as in the environment.
The boxes need to have a low power consumption for the battery to last for months in the water. It is designed to respond only with a low-volume "ping" when it picks up a trace signal within its range, which means that life at sea will not be constantly disturbed by the devices.
Once located, the fishermen or the fishing authorities will collect the equipment.
Jeff Neasham, a senior professor at the School of Engineering, said: "We want to reach a win-win scenario where modest investments by fishermen can be more than rewarded, avoiding the loss of valuable assets and significantly reducing a large source." pollution in the marine environment ".
Neasham added, "These devices do not stay there and transmit continuously, making noise all the time, they sit and listen and only speak if a unit on the surface accesses them to talk.
"We're not creating a major environmental problem with noise emissions – they will only talk if someone is looking for them."
:: The Sky & # 39; s Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to reduce their disposable plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at www.skyoceanrescue.com.