A diver has discovered a massive, abandoned fishing net containing hundreds of dead fish, sharks and other marine life drifting in the deep waters off Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean.
Diver and fisherman Dominick Martin-Mayes, 27, estimates the 'ghost net' has been drifting in the Caribbean Sea for months, trapping and killing marine life along the way.
He told The Independent he and his friends found the "solid net of dead, decomposing fish and sharks" on Monday afternoon.
Ghost nets, according to the Earth 5R organization, are "abandoned, lost or even discarded fishing nets that drift along the ocean currents, enmeshing and murdering the wildlife."
Martin-Mayes says 30 or more lifeless sharks were trapped in the weighted net, which measures about 15 meters wide and 15 meters deep.
"At first we thought it was a log, but as we got closer we could see it was a net with floats," he said. "I jumped in the water first and was shocked at what I saw. It took my breath away: the first thing I saw was the juvenile oceanic whitetip [shark].
"I got my buddy who was with me to grab a knife and jump in. We did what we could to free some of the trapped life, but most of it was already dead."
The Cayman Islands government has since warned boaters to steer clear of the ghost net and is working on removing the deadly tangle from the water.
Tim Austin, deputy director of the islands' Department of Environment, told the Cayman Compass: "If we can locate it, we can assess whether we can recover it or tow it somewhere to secure it until it can be dealt with safely. We don't want it to end up in the reef and we need to stop its deadly ghost fishing."
The decaying creatures trapped inside the net are creating a bloody chum slick, enticing sharks and other oceanic carnivores which then also become ensnared.
"The more that get caught, the more that come in to eat it and get caught themselves… It is heartbreaking," Martin-Mayes said.
He found an array of objects – including buckets, rope, bottles, a long cable, and even a tree – "disappearing into the depths" of the net.
Jacks, triple tails, and big ocean turbots were among the dead marine life ensnared in the net, which proved too heavy for the divers' boat to tow to safety.
Martin-Mayes says it's "highly unlikely" authorities will be able to locate the deadly floating island: "Never give up hope, but it's a very small object in a very, very large ocean."