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The “dust bunny” unraveled

September 21, 2009

It looks like we have a large hairball sitting on our bow. It’s what oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer would refer to as a giant dust bunny, (really an enormous tangle of rope and fishing nets). Most of the material in this mass is abandoned fishing gear that has a way of finding other net and knitting together.

Some of the nets literally weigh a ton, and are impossible to retrieve unless you’re on a commercial fishing boat with the right equipment. They also have organisms living on them; we found barnacles on the outside and crabs nestled inside.

And of course, as yesterday’s pictures prove, fish follow the nets which they believe are reefs, i.e. suitable habitats to live on.

So here’s a rundown of some of the material tangled in our “dust bunny”:

  • A hag fish trap

These traps are used in deep water to lure in fish through a plastic opening that gets smaller toward the inside of the trap. These jawless scavenging fish are usually lured in by some sort of bait. People, especially in Asia, eat hag fish or use their skins to make “leather” products.

  • Rat lines

These yarn-like pieces provide abrasion resistance on ships-they act as a buffer preventing large ropes from rubbing against the ship’s railings and fraying.

  • Gillnets/drift nets

These fine monofilament nets are designed to catch many types of fish. They are clear, nearly invisible and are often left sitting across mangrove channels, or taken in and out according to the tide in coastal zones and left at the surface in the deep ocean.

*And an update on our progress toward the patch-Captain Moore says we’re about 6 days away…

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