On ghost gear and seaweed stirfry

For the last few months, we’ve been building up towards a project on abandoned, lost and otherwise discarded fishing gear, more commonly known as ghost gear. This began with a conversation with a conservation scientist working on the issue of marine debris in India. He had read an academic paper describing the creation of a map depicting the zones where there was a high probability of turtles getting entangled in ghost gear off the Australian coast. This map could then be used to target areas for ghost gear removal, and thus reduce the threat to the turtles. . Could we do something similar for India? What do we know about ghost gear off the Indian coast? The fact that there does not seem to be enough data about marine debris off the Indian coast to begin answering these questions shaped our discussions, and concluded with us being brought on as researchers to answer one question: given the current state of technology, what is the best method to locate and detect ghost gear in Indian territorial waters?

Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear

Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear

Once we completed the contractual work with the NGO, we dove head first into the project. We were on a tight schedule, so went looking for some external assistance; we were very lucky to be able to convince Gabriella D’Cruz, a lovely and passionate marine conservationist, to join us for this project. We began by structuring the workflow and assigning tasks to each member of the team. We would be conducting reviews of academic literature, non-academic material and interviews with experts, to ensure we covered the subject comprehensively, and would then be summarising the information, analysing it and submitting our recommendations to our client.

We took a beach-break on of the days and found some ghost gear washed up on the shore.

We took a beach-break on of the days and found some ghost gear washed up on the shore.

Once the research itself began, the next few weeks just whizzed past. We spent all our energy looking for and reading through the available information on our subject. The work was very motivating, as the eventual conservation impact was evident, and there was also a steep learning curve; while we were familiar with the technology being considered, its application to ghost gear detection was new to us.

Working together as a team was lovely; we all bonded over discussions of food, Goa and conservation. One particular day was memorable, for Gabriella (who loves sea-weed, to say the very least) brought a few different varieties of seaweed seasoning to work. We ended up cooking stir-fry noodles that day with the sea-weed which was just delicious; but it didn’t stop there. A few hours later, tea-time consisted of black tea with seaweed, accompanied with cashewnuts roasted in butter and seaweed!

Seaweed stirfry

Seaweed stirfry

On another day, we had to take a break because one of us found a video recording of a conference where they’d live-streamed the proceedings over Facebook, but had mistakenly put the cat filter on; we couldn’t see our screens because of our tears of laughter.

Over the first weeks of this project, we collated all the information we could find on this topic, had filtered and summarised it and had begun making our primary assessments. In the last weeks, we brought all of this information together and prepared the report. We spent a few days reading through our information summaries, identifying patterns, concerns and potential recommendations. We spent one long day at our whiteboard, discussing and condensing all the information we had on the topic.

Working things out on the whiteboard

Working things out on the whiteboard

It was lovely to be able to work through the information, have a structured debate (shout-out to Brooklyn 99 S06e12), construct flow-charts and discover what we agreed to as a team. It was a tiring but particularly rewarding day, because at the end we had identified a clear workflow, specific recommendations for our client and potential areas for innovation in the location and detection of ghost gear.*photo of us working on the white board*Over the last few days, we completed writing and editing the report before sending it to our clients. We’re now working on our other projects, but know that we’re going to be doing more work on eliminating ghost gear from the oceans soon!