Random Jottings

Tangle nets, as bad as drift nets but not as publicised

Everyone knows about drift nets......walls of almost invisible monofilament netting which are used to catch mid to upper water species, but what about fish which live on or near the bottom? Enter the 'tangle net'

For some reason tangle nets haven't got so much adverse press as drift nets but you can argue that thety actually do more damage to the ecology of an area, that's because they are designed to be supported in a fashion which drapes them over the seabed and catch fish and crustacea as well as bye-catch.


If you read the pro-use blurb they are very positive about setting the amount of 'slack netting' to match the species being sought, however read more closely and they confirm that the netting is 'stronger' than normal drift net and that the bye-catch tends to be demersal species and crabs, that is to say any fish species that swims near the sea-bed and any sort of crab, or to be blunt crustaceans.

In the deep South these nets tend to be used to catch spider crabs and with luck lobsters and crayfish and it is probably in this area that they cause the most problems with all crustaceans of all sizes caught and then killed, becasue as the name suggests the animals are tangled and as such very difficult to remove in one piece, so berried hens, brown crabs carrying eggs, undersize crabs and lobsters they are all removed and either dumped elsewhere or delimbed and dropped in the fishing area. If you dive areas which are heavily netted you will note the lack of crabs and lobsters in areas which seem ideal, dive around Plymouth Sound and you'll see what I mean.

The other problem with these nets is the same as is encountered with conventional drift nets, that is to say species such as birds (look at the photo), seals, porpoise and dolphins will all get tangled, most of the times the larger animals will be cut free at sea and if they are alive when the net is hauled they may survive, however it's more likely that the poor beggars will drown before the nets are hauled and the bodies will be cut free and a couple of 'stabs' into the lung cavities mean that they will sink and become crab food.

In the past the inshore fishermen up here in Gods Country have had there pots for free, well apart from a little labour! Originally the wooden staves used to make the pots was rattan which was used to pack the cargo of ships heading to the Tyne and other ports of the area, the docks were more than happy for fishermen to take away this 'rubbish' rather than have to employ a waste company to take it away or burn it. Latterly, when rattan stopped being used, the pots were made from plastic extrusion which was used in the manufacture of hydraulic hoses, again it was a waste product and the manufacturers were more than happy for guys to take away and recycle the rubbish.

The problem is now that the plastic is recycled for hard cash and the fishermen now have to buy pots and a string of ten pots will cost in the region of £1000, quite a cost when you consider that most boats will run twenty plus strings any or all of which can be lost if pots snag on rough ground or if either marker buoy comes adrift for any reason. Now when you think that you can acquire a tangle net, which is fully rigged and 100 meters by 12 meters for around £50 the economics is simple and that is why, unfortunately, so many nets are now being used here in Northumberland.

At the moment there are no controls on tangle nets with the only licence that the fishermen use based upon the quantity of shellfish landed and this is calculated based upon the engine capacity, in Hp, of the fishing vessel....as an aside some of the boats have big 8 cylinder diesel engines rated at 30Hp, WTF? I am sure that there must be some sort of restriction or laws but can only hope that it is in place before the area is decimated.

The fishermen up here have worked proactively in self help programmes with the "V" notching programme for lobsters being the obvious sucess story, I can just hope that something is set up and the Brexit negotiations don't bugger up any local agreements!

Dive safe!


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