December 24, 2016

Octopus pots from Mauritania travelling around the world

octopus pots, Nouakchott beach, 2013
This drawing dating from 2013 was published in a local magazine Citymag where I tell the story and the exchanges with an American Wildlife biologist, Tom Pitchford, who's interested in the impact on the environment of the plastic traps used to fish the octopus. (original post in French in citymag here)

octopus traps in Nouakchott beach November 2016

He contacted me to find out if ever I had drawn a octopus trap. I had never heard of them but next time I was in the beach I saw that they were omnipresent.

These traps made of plastique and containing a ballast in cement in the interior are used in the Northeast Atlantic (Spain and Portugal) and the Eastern Central Atlantic (Morocco and Mauritania) to capture the octopus.

Cement is tied in the interior of the pots with ropes to serve as ballast. It comes a moment of tear and wear where it breaks and the pots are free from weight. I suppose they're in bunches because spread in the beach you find them individually or still tied in grapes. But the moment that most of the pots loose their ballast they break free and start moving around pushed by the currents of the ocean.

Tom contacted me because pots are turning up in California, Bermudas, Bahamas, Caribbean, Cape Vert and probably a lot more places he doesn't know about yet.

He says in an article that :
“Little Cayman getting a plastic pot from the Western Sahara is the same as the UK receiving plastic debris from the United States, or Florida receiving plastic items from the Caribbean. We are all on the conveyor belt, the plastic is circulating the gyres (large systems of rotating ocean currents),” he said, adding that storms can pull the debris out of the gyres and onto beaches. ( full article here)
Cape Vert
He said tracing the source of the octopus pots and finding out they had travelled halfway around the world on the sea was indicative of the persistent plastic marine pollution that is being seen globally. 
For century's octopus were fished using clays pots reverting to this technique and stopping the use of plastique would be a better alternative for the future of the planet.
Turks and Caicos Islands

Kayak, Sénégal
octopus pot found in Florida origin Mauritania
All photos sent by Tom Pitchford

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