On the 26th Jan a mystery net (estimated weight around 600kg) was picked up by Sea Swift’s MV Malu Trojan at Switzer Reef near Barrow Island Point (just south of Princess Charlotte Bay). It was found on the edge of the main shipping lane and was lucky to be spotted by the skipper before getting caught in any propellers or trapping any marine life. A mini investigation ensued to find out the story behind it’s travel across the seas!
We contacted OceanWatch who believed it may have been part of a purse seine net, mainly used to catch fish species that swim in large schools near the ocean surface.
After posting about the net on social media, the Vanuatu Fisheries Department contacted us to say it was a fish aggregating device designed specifically for Vanuatu (called a Vatuika FAD), such as in the image below.
This gear is part of the Vanuatu government’s support for small-scale fishers and was probably lost last year during TC Harold. The information that we’ve provided will help the organisation in informing their project on ghost gear.
It’s amazing how much information one piece of debris can provide us! We have since sent back a number of the floats and will be in communication with the Vanuatu Fisheries Department if we find similar items moving forward.