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Fishing Gear

Many animals are the victim of drift nets.

Many animals are victims of drift nets.

Originally, small nets were used to catch schooling fish, such as herring, in coastal waters. In the early 1970s, very light synthetic nets were introduced. This allowed large drift nets to be used out at sea to catch species such as tuna, sword fish and squid.

Unfortunately, drift nets catch whatever swims into them, including thousands of ocean wildlife such as whales, seals, seabirds and sea turtles every year. The animals get tangled up in the nets and drown.

In 1989, the United Nations called for a worldwide ban on the use of drift nets outside of countries’ 200-mile coastal areas. The ban came into effect in 1992 and drift nets have disappeared from many parts of the world's oceans. But, some old drift nets left behind are still in the oceans and some countries continue to use drift nets. These nets can be as long as 65 kilometres!

Rubber Band Experiment: HELP...I',m Trapped!

Hand with rubber band around itWhat's it like to be all tangled up and not be able to get free? When whales or other sea creatures get tangled up in a net or garbage they don't have fingers and arms to lift it off. Animals that get trapped probably feel helpless. Usually the more an animal struggles to get free, the more tangled up it becomes.

Grab a rubber band and try this:

Take the rubber band and loop it around your thumb. Pull it across the back of your hand, then loop it over your little finger.

Imagine you are a whale that has become caught in a drift net or a piece of rope that someone has thrown into the ocean. Without using your other hand, any other part of your body or any nearby object, try to take the rubber band off of your hand.

Were you able to get it off? How did it make you feel to be "trapped"? Can you think of ways that you could help stop whales from getting tangled up in garbage?


Fishing boat image courtesy of the Photo Library of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce.

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