It has long been now that ghost nets (lost nets drifting in the ocean) are a serious problem to the marine environment but no one has ever really known how big the problem is until now. Scientists working for the Northwest Straits Initiative have monitored ghost nets in Puget Sound and the impact they have on the wildlife by regularly check the nets for dead fish and birds as well as the degree of decomposition. They noted species, decomposition rate and tagging newly-entangled animals to collect as much data as possible.
They found that fish caught in ghost nets decompose in 10 days or less. This makes it hard to really see the damage the et causes as the evidence of the deaths they cause soon vanishes.
One net the monitored are calculated to have killed 2,300 fish and 1,200 marine birds during its 15 years as a ghost net.
The program has also removed 870 ghost nets from the sea. In those nets they found 30,000 entangled animals, including 22 dead marine mammals, 378 dead birds, 1,022 live and dead fish, and 29,517 live and dead invertebrates.
You can read more about the Northwest Straits Initiative, the study, and its results here.