• Kim Burke

2/ 'What are you doing for your honours project?'

Updated: Jan 29, 2020

Beginning the year, I told my self I was clueless... that I did not have an idea for my honours project. However it didn't take me long to realise that I had a strong area of interest which had potential for exploration.

Image above features by Dad hauling up a pretty rubbish catch!

Growing up on the west coast of Scotland, I was fed countryside, fishing, hiking, surfing, and an abundance of lobster and crab! My Dad (Russell) was, and still is a keen fisherman and this always raised my concern and interest towards the oceans habitants. He fishes on a small scale with approx five pots/traps, and on the rare occasion he may loose a pot. This could be due to stormy weather and the pot being dragged, a snapped line, or perhaps another fisherman helping themselves; to perhaps a pot of gold. This bothered me for many reasons, the fact that the creatures were trapped in this pot and that a man made item, made of non-biodegradable, Nylon and Steel, was perhaps sitting on the ocean bed, never to be seen again. When fishing equipment is lost at sea, it is referred to as 'ghost gear'.

Read up on ghost gear here:

Upon researching further into Ghost Gear, I was left startled to read that 640 tones of lost or disregarded fishing gear, enters the worlds oceans every year, making up for 50% of all plastic in our ocean. This equipment, including nets and rope, can be as large as a football pitch. It kills marine life, destroys corals and wipes out complete eco systems. This equipment is sadly rarely retrieved by fisherman themselves due to the difficulty, time, expense and danger it requirers to find ghost gear.

My first initial thoughts towards a project idea surrounding this issue were:

- Is there a product that could be developed to retrieve the nets & pots?

- Could a biodegradable net/pot be made?

- Could I re-purpose these nets into a new product?

- Could I develop a new material from the recycled nets?

I followed my thought process and researched these possible ideas. Several of these ideas were shelved due to them already being explored, such as Biodegradable netting.

Check out some pretty confused sketchbook pages full of possible ideas below!

You can view the Biodegradable netting development here:

Due to the climate crisis we are currently facing, volunteer groups and organisations are popping up across the world to try and backtrack on what we have done. Retrieving these nets and pots and repurposing them, recycling them, and re-manufacturing them into new products to stand up to ocean waste. For example the fashion brand 'PRADA', are standing up to ocean waste by repurposing Nylon netting into a new material, called 'Re-Nylon'.

You can view the Re-Nylon project here:

Another insight discovered was the 'Remora Project', which focuses on a method to find lost fishing gear, known as 'ghost gear'. This design includes an RFID tag, which is easily attachable to fishing nets, an RFID tracker, and an app; allowing you to trace lost nets. This allows fishermen to retrieve ghost nets, saving them time, money and the environment all at once.

Checkout the project here:

So what is next?

My next steps will entail researching further into existing efforts to reduce ghost gear. I hope for this to include interviews with organisations and individuals currently designing and planning for healthier and safer waters.

Keep an eye out for my next blog to see what I discover!

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