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Lines to marker buoys are sometimes cut, which can cause the loss of gear
Lines to marker buoys are sometimes cut, which can cause the loss of gear

The loss of fishing gear at sea is common and can happen through no fault of the fisher. This eventuality is recognized by MARPOL under Annex V, Reg. 6 as follows:


Regulations 3, 4, and 5 of this Annex shall not apply to:

(c) "the accidental loss of synthetic fishing nets or synthetic material incidental to the repair of such nets, provided that all reasonable precautions have been taken to prevent such loss."

In the case of driftnets, the nets might be cut by a passing vessel or during bad weather the nets can separate from the vessel and subsequently become difficult to locate.

Set nets can be lost if the line to the position marker (marker buoy or dan) is cut or broken. In such cases, good navigational equipment such as GPS can indicate the position and the fishing gear can then be retrieved by means of grappling gear.

In order to distinguish fishing gear that has been accidentally lost from that which has been deliberately abandoned, the FAO Recommendations for the Marking of Fishing Gear propose a system of ownership marking associated with a compulsory reporting of lost fishing gear. In fact, the practice of owners marking their fishing gear has been in existence for hundreds of years for obvious practical reasons. Indeed, one must question the motives of fishers who object to the compulsory marking of fishing gear so that the owner can be identified.

Given that fishing gear can be lost accidentally, measures to reduce the loss of fishing gear must be addressed. However, fishers will generally do all they can to avoid the gear loss as this represents a substantial financial loss as well.

In accordance with regulation 9 of Annex V of MARPOL, which was adopted in 1995, all ships of 400 gross tonnage and above and every ship certified to carry 15 persons or more must provide a Garbage Record Book to record all disposal and incineration operations. The date, time, position of the ship, description of the garbage and the estimated amount incinerated or discharged must be logged and signed. The books must be kept for a period of two years after the date of last entry.

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