The fishing net is one of the easiest ways to catch fish. For this reason it is employed around the globe. Nets are made from fibres which are woven into grid shaped structures. They tend to be meshes that are knotted from thin threads. The earliest forms of fishing net were made from fibrous plant material such as grass and flax. Over the centuries, cotton began to be favoured. The fishing nets of today are made from artificial fibre such as nylon. However, organic polyamides like silk and wool are also widespread.
There has been concern about the environmental impact of fishing nets. Fisheries tend to utilise large nets that are incapable of discriminating between edible fish and other sea life. The creatures that are caught in nets but not able to be used in the fishing industry are referred to as bycatch.
The issue of bycatch has been a topic of controversy for years. In recent times over-fishing has reached record levels and is threatening several species. This includes certain types of sea turtle, shark and dolphin. Deaths usually occur as a result of drowning after being caught in a net. This is a particular problem for longline, gillnet and trawl fishing nets.
There is also the danger of nets becoming lost at sea and contaminating the local ecosystem. This is a problem for nets that are made from plastic. “Ghost nets” can entangle fish, whales and even seabirds. They restrict animal movement, lacerate skin and create infections. Because of this, environmental groups often argue that there need to be more robust policies in place which dictate the safe use of fishing nets.