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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ghost Net Retrieved During Pacific Whale Foundation Cruise

Anne Rillero
Reader Submitted

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Pacific Whale Foundation naturalists Serena Neff and Aleta van Zinderen display the ghost net that was removed from the sea off the coast of Maui last week.

Pacific Whale Foundation

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MA'ALAEA, HI -- Call it a firsthand lesson on the problem of marine debris in the Pacific Ocean.

On Monday, April 10, passengers on Pacific Whale Foundation's Wild Whale and Dolphin Encounter on the Ocean Discovery got a close look at the wildlife that was entangled in a large "ghost net" when they assisted Pacific Whale Foundation's naturalists in removing the net from the water.

The net was found around 9:45 a.m., about six miles off Kaho'olawe. When it was sighted, it was just 300 yards from a pod of three humpback whales, which included a mother, calf and an escort.

About ten guests helped naturalists Serena Neff and Aleta van Zinderen drag the heavy net from the sea. With the help of children on board, they pulled living animals out of the net and returned the wildlife to the ocean.

Marine debris is believed to be the number one killer of marine mammals. Discarded or lost fishing nets will drift at sea, often becoming entangled with other line or nets. Sea turtles, wild dolphins, whales and other air-breathing marine animals can become entangled in the nets and drown. Smaller animals, including fish and invertebrates, can also become ensnared and will starve to death over time.

It is company policy at Pacific Whale Foundation that the captains and crew on all of its ecotours stop to pick up marine debris. "A big part of our mission is education," says Patrick Merrill, Vessel Programs Director at Pacific Whale Foundation. "Picking up marine debris always leads to a discussion of how the debris originated, the problems it poses, and what individuals can do about it."

"At the same time, we want to do whatever we can to get rid of marine debris," he notes. "If we had not removed it from the ocean, the net would have continued along, killing more and more wildlife in its path."

To learn more about Pacific Whale Foundation's Wild Whale and Dolphin Encounter cruise, please visit www.pacificwhale.org.