Big waves on windy days tell me lots of beach trash will end up at the high water mark. Today was like any other windy day in the Bahamas. But there was one catch–I forgot my trash bag. That would be the day a ghost net attacked me on the beach.
Earbuds set and plugged into my favorite podcast on my iPhone, I pulled it out of a pouch to change podcasts and oh, who’s this tagging me on Facebook? Better check that out. Our son WhatsApped me, so I answered back, typing with two fingers. Minutes passed as I multitasked while slowly jogging, eager to get back to the podcast.
BLAM. Suddenly, down I went. What the heck? What hit me?
Stunned, I pulled myself upright to find a pile of rope beneath me, blanketed in sand. Bottles protruded from all directions. Monofilament dangled. I had stumbled right over it. Silly me. That’s what I get for not paying attention. Suddenly, it hit me.
Yes, a ghost net took me down. The big devil.
Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been left or lost in the ocean by fishermen. They entangle fish, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, dugongs, crocodiles, seabirds, crabs, and other creatures, including the occasional human diver. The one above is an open coffin to any sea creature.
Ghost nets are among the greatest killers in our oceans, and not only because of their numbers. Hundreds of miles of nets get lost every year, thus becoming ghost nets. Due to the nature of the materials used to produce these nets, they will keep fishing for a multiple of decades, possibly even for several centuries without its mother ship in sight. Ghost nets are floating pyres of death.
Once, we pulled in a 2-mile long ghost net made of stout nylon out of the sea at night from behind our boat. My husband, Peter, had to dive on it and cut it away from our prop before we could continue on, south of Puerto Rico. I held the flashlight.
When caught on a reef, ghost nets do not only catch fish, turtles, crustaceans, birds or marine mammals, they also destroy hard and soft corals, wiping out entire ecosystems while swaying in the current. If caught on wrecks nets can suffocate the soft corals and corals attached to the wreck; thereby, render hiding places for marine life useless, even trapping them inside.
So whenever I spot a ghost net on the oceanside beach where I jog every morning, I drag it up towards the sand dunes and pray the high tide doesn’t suck it back into the sea. I look for the same ghost net on my next jog, just to rest my heart. If I don’t see it, I go to my knees in despair, knowing some other sea creature had become caught in the snare. Ghost nets are the scourge of the sea.
But today, I decided to drag the ghost net into the bush this time…behind the dunes. It is too big to leave in the surf. This kind of ghost net weighed roughly 200 lbs, so I plunged my feet into the sand, and pulled the ghost net while scooting backward on my fanny. In time, I reached the dunes and dragged it up into the bush. Carting the entanglement of thick rope took me an entire hour. Truly, it was slow going but my passion was great. I knew I wouldn’t sleep well that night unless I succeeded in removing the net from the claws of the sea.
Okay, so forget the jog. Just dump the damn net.
On my way back to the trailhead, I collected more cartable beach trash. I couldn’t bear to walk past it. My emotions had kicked in, so best to comply or I’ll be up all night, mad at myself…and the creep who tossed it into the sea in the first place.