A new development- a biodegradable fishing net lined with radio frequency identification chips promises to dramatically reduce the number of abandoned “ghost nets” that kill thousands of marine mammals and account for an estimated 10% of ocean plastic pollution. Alejandro Plasencia, a Barcelona, Spain–based product engineer who grew up in the Canary Islands, calls his fishing net project Remora, inspired by the symbiotic relationship of the remora fish that attaches itself to sharks. The net is treated with the biodegradable additive d2w, which the manufacturer claims would cause the polymer to begin to break down after four years. The net is studded with ultrathin RFID transmitters to pinpoint its location so it can be quickly repaired rather than abandoned.
A smartphone app would let fishing boat captains keep track of their nets. Plasencia’s main target is the commercial tuna operators who use the “purse seining” method of fishing, which deploys gigantic nets—some measuring more than a mile wide and 700 feet deep—around entire schools of fish. Production cost is estimated to be 15-20% higher than nets currently in use, but fishers would save money by being able to easily locate the nets for repair.