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A tangled mass of nets filled with intertidal creatures


“Net Ball!” Shanley yelled.
“That’s the second one,” Alex added.
We sail next to it and I gaff it with a hook. The chance of me holding on, while the 45 ton Sea Dragon traveling two knots pulls an estimated 700 lb tangled mass of nets, is unlikely.  On the second try we slow down and run a halyard (rope at the top of the mast used to haul up a sail) through the large loops of encrusted rope on the net ball.

“Haul away,” Rodrigo yells.

The net ball swings over the deck and we start shaking it. There are multi-colored bits of rope and netting all woven throughout it. We shake it like a giant piñata. Little Sergeant Majors drop out, and a palm sized frog fish. Hank is underneath getting a shower of sea water and small crabs. I shake it more and something starts to fall.

Brittle stars begin to drop. Dozens of them. I’ve never seen brittle stars on a net. The biodiversity on these floating reefs is unbelievable. Then a cowrie pops out. This is a reef-dwelling sea shell, a beautiful smooth-shelled gastropod, and it’s living on a netball 600 miles off Japan’s coast.

We’ve created new habitat in the ocean. There are millions of tons of it floating in the 5 Gyres. Coastal species can ride the new reefs to other continents where they were previously barricaded by time and distance. When these new reefs make landfall they tear apart old reefs, depositing the foreign passengers in their wake.

We’ve chosen to take our two net balls with us, as aromatic as they are now. We’ll bring them to Tokyo. If we were in Korea, we would get paid for this service. If we were in the United States, the Ghost Net Network would give us a certificate and a free hat. I’ve got one, but unfortunately the program is over. What if the fishing industry had to register nets? Or what if nets were made of a biodegradable material, like PAH?

For now, I’m interested in an industry subsidized recovery program, where we can earn a few yen for the 1000 pounds of nets on our bow. That would cover the first round of sake the crew is dreaming of. -Marcus