Nice name huh?

The “Wall of Death” is also another term given to the practice of driftnet fishing. This practice, which I believe was banned in 1993 by the United Nations, has been described as the most destructive fishing method ever devised by mankind. Ironically though, it was the United Nations themselves who originally endorsed it on the premise that lower income nations would be able to boost their economy. Little did they know the catastrophic effects it would have on marine life.

It didn’t take long for the practice to become popular among some of the larger countries who’s economies in some part was tied to the seas. These countries included Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and before the moratorium was passed in 1993 they alone deployed over 50,000 kilometers of driftnets on a daily basis.

Strip Mining the Ocean

So, what is a driftnet anyway?

Usually made from monofilament or nylon and depending on the quarry with a varying mesh size, driftnets are often as long as 40 miles wide and can be suspended to a depth of about 50 feet. Usually laid during the evening hours and in the normal migration path of the various fish that inhabit the ocean, driftnets sorta act like a huge spider web that captures and kills anything that gets caught in it.

Intended for use on such staple fish as tuna and salmon as well as other assorted marine life such as squid, driftnets also manage to capture and kill various other creatures of the deep such as dolphins, porpoises, whales, sharks, sea turtles, various sea birds and just about anything else that was unlucky enough to get trapped. As a matter of fact, estimates are that as much as 50 percent of each catch is either non-intended prey or was rendered unusable due to the damage that the nets cause.

That might lead to the question “Then why was the practice so popular?” That’s easy, it was cheap. The nets themselves are considered extremely inexpensive when compared to other fishing methods that were in use prior to the advent of driftnet fishing.

A Well Kept Secret?

Before 1983 hardly anybody outside the fishing industry was aware that the practice was going on and was being conducted on such a large scale. Scientists involved in the study of marine biology began to notice a tremendous drop-off in the amount of fish in their native waters and began to launch their own investigations. This caught the attention of Greenpeace who often sent out their own boats that recorded the results of driftnetting and also took direct action and tried to prevent the fishing ships from deploying their nets.

After many years of lobbying and much to the chagrin of many nations involved in the practice and the many forces within the fishing industry, a formal moratorium on driftnet fishing was declared by the United Nations in 1993.

Even with the moratorium in effect, there are many “rogue” fishing vessels that still engage in the practice of driftnet fishing. I imagine that with such a large area to patrol, these vessels run a scant risk of being caught and that the reward outweighs any risk involved. Meanwhile, the effects that driftnet fishing has had on marine life are still being studied and probably will be for many years to come. All I know is that anything conducted on such a large scale and involves that much waste and killing can’t be good for anybody or anything. campInfo