Posted by: The ocean update | December 2, 2014

Biodegradable Fishing Net Could Save Thousands of Dolphins, Whales, Sharks

Engineering student Alejandro Plasencia has created a biodegradable fishing net that aims to prevent marine animals from dying in fishing nets.

Engineering student Alejandro Plasencia has created a biodegradable fishing net that aims to prevent marine animals from dying in fishing nets.

December 2nd; 2014 (John Nassivera). Engineering student Alejandro Plasencia has created a biodegradable fishing net that aims to prevent marine animals from dying in fishing nets.

Thousands of sharks, dolphins, birds and other mammals get tangled as bycatch in nets and die every year.

The World Wildlife Fund pointed out that one dolphin or porpoise dies every two minutes from being caught in fishing gear, according to Discovery News.

Plasencia’s net works with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, an RFID reader and a smartphone app as part of the Remora system, which is designed to help fishermen find and repair broken nets so they aren’t abandoned.

“Ghost nets,” loose nets in the ocean, are unintentionally a trap for whales and dolphins swimming nearby.

After entangling marine animals, these abandoned nets break down into millions of small plastic pieces (“plastic soup”) that release toxins and are mistaken by marine organisms – from whales to microscopic zooplankton – as food, Dezeen reported.

Remora has RFID chips embedded into yellow and orange plastic tags that are attached to regular fishing nets. Fishermen would be able to use the app and the RFID reader to track, find and fix the nets in a more efficient manner, or they could declare the nets as lost and contact Healthy Seas and other government agencies to recover them.

The Remora nets could act as replacements for the regular ones; they contain d2w, an additive that breaks down in sea water, Discovery News reported.

“We were inspired by symbiotic relationships in nature, like the remora fish that attaches to sharks’ skin and keeps it clean by eating parasites, faeces and leftovers,” Plasencia said.

The additive will rid the water of excess nets and prevent the “plastic soup” situation from continuing. It will also allow the nets to degrade in an environmentally friendly way when its life cycle ends, according to Dezeen.

Plasencia predicts that his nets would use 54 percent less energy than nets being used today.

“We wanted to develop a project for the fishing industry which turned sustainability into a driver of profit,” he said.

Plasencia’s Remora has gained enough praise to be shortlisted for the 2014 James Dyson Foundation Award, becoming the national winner of the competition for Spain.

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