We are all affected by marker buoys and the potential of trailing ropes.
The recent Marine Notice No. 31 of 2023 gives a reminder and advisory for the use of appropriate marker buoys / ropes when engaged in pot fishing for lobster, crab or other fish or shellfish.
It is hoped that the advice of short lines, appropriate types of buoys and quantity of buoy lines will help to reduce incidents.
“Any mariners who spot any marker buoys/ropes (or any other object) in the water which they deem to represent a danger to navigation should communicate information on same to other vessels in the area and to the Irish Coast Guard or to the local competent authority so that a hazard warning can be issued, if appropriate, and any required follow-up action can be taken.”
Good Practice Guide to Pots and Marker Buoys
1. Place all pots and marker buoys away from known regular routes used by local fishing vessels, passenger boats and pleasure craft.
2. Marker buoys are required to comply with the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority’s Fisheries Information Notice (FIN) 06 of 2021 ‘Marking and Identification of Fishing Gear’, which summarises relevant EU legislation for marking of fishing gear.
3. The ropes used to attach marker buoys to pots should be just long enough to allow the marker buoys to float at high tide and not allow the rope to float on the surface.
4. Where a trailing length is required on a marker buoy to aid retrieval, it should be marked with a smaller ‘tidal stream’ buoy or flag to indicate the direction of the rope and the rope should be weighted down with lead rope or chain to keep it submerged.
5. The use of drink cans, plastic bottles, plastic footballs, etc. as marker buoys is not permitted.
6. Masters and skippers should keep an extra lookout in areas where fishing using static gear is common.
7. If you become entangled in a marker buoy or its ropes:
• Dial 112 / 999 or use Marine VHF Channel 16 and Ask for Coast Guard even if you think you are able to disentangle yourself without assistance;
• Note the position of the marker buoy and its ropes;
• If you have to cut yourself free, try to re-buoy the cut end of the rope so that it is visible to others.
• Try not to cut the rope short, which could cause it to remain submerged as an unseen hazard or become irretrievable. Discarded and irretrievable fishing gear can remain on the seabed and continue to ‘ghost fish’ * indefinitely.
* ‘Ghost fishing’ occurs where discarded or irretrievable fishing gear continues to fish. The trapped fish die and in turn become bait, attracting more fish and the cycle can continue until the pot or other gear finally disintegrates.