The Baikal Without Fishnets

The Baikal Without Fishnets

June – December 2021

The problem of fishnet pollution (such as abandoned, lost and otherwise abandoned fishing gear) is relevant around the world. The fishnet pollution continues to catch fish and other sea animals (so-called «phantom fishing»): the fish and other sea animals enter the fishnets and die as a result. Rotting processes begin, which lead to the development of harmful algae – spirogyra and cyanobacteria, which poison the water. Thus, «phantom fishing» causes economic and environmental damage. 

Nowadays, there is no data on fishnet pollution of Lake Baikal, as well as on the consequences of such pollution. According to divers, the shallow water of Lake Baikal is not an exception in the context of the global problem of fishnet pollution of water bodies.

After reviewing the letters of support for the Baikal Without Fishnets project from the directorate of the Pribaikalsky National Park, the Baikal Nature Interregional Prosecutor’s Office, the Department of General Ecology and Hydrobiology of the Moscow State University, as well as the Legislation Committee on the Environmental Management, Ecology and Agriculture of the Legislative Assembly of the Irkutsk Region, Lake Baikal Foundation has decided to sign an agreement with the Irkutsk Regional Environmental Non-governmental organization «Depth of responsibility» on the joint implementation of the Baikal Without Fishnets project

The Baikal Without Fishnets project is a set of activities, centred around an independent ecological Circum-Baikal research expedition, which will take place from July 25 to August 5, 2021 with the participation of employees of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology RAS, as well as specialists from other research institutions.


  • to obtain reliable data on the fishnet pollution of the shoreline of Lake Baikal.


  • to make a map of Lake Baikal, marking the places of fishnet pollution;
  • to extract, analyse and disposal found abandoned and lost fishnets along the way;
  • to conduct toxicological and microbiological laboratory analysis of the obtained biological samples, water samples and fishnets to identify the dimension of damage caused by fishnet pollution to the lake ecosystem. 

What has been done:

  • The practical part of the project was to obtain objective information about the pollution of Lake Baikal by sunken fishing nets. To achieve this task, three independent expeditions were organized, which covered almost the entire perimeter of Lake Baikal. The expeditions were attended by 25 people from among professional divers and divers, representatives of civil society, public authorities and business. Divers and divers carried out dives in order to assess the state of the lake’s water area for its littering with sunken nets, and also retrieved the discovered nets to the surface. In total, about 840 kg of fishing nets were recovered, which were transferred for disposal. In addition to nets, other objects that pose a threat to the ecosystem of the lake were discovered during underwater observations, for example, sunken batteries near the berths. After the completion of the expeditions, a map of «network» pollution was compiled.
  • In order to study the consequences of network pollution, samples of water, biomaterials, fouling from networks (more than 60 samples in total) were taken for subsequent analyses. The research was carried out on board the vessel and in the scientific laboratories of the Scientific Research Center for Environmental Safety of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg and at the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Scientific research was carried out in four directions:

1) the composition and structure of microfouling on the networks was analyzed,
2) the composition of hydrobionts found in sunken fishing nets has been studied,
3) hydrochemical studies of water have been carried out,
4) water and fragments of sunken fishing nets were analyzed for the presence of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins.

  • The analytical and legal part of the project consisted in the analysis of the data obtained on the places of accumulation of the discovered sunken networks and the consequences to which such pollution leads, as well as the analysis of the network pollution map. The data obtained were presented at the interregional round table «Pollution of reservoirs by sunken fishing nets: causes, consequences, solutions». Following the results of the round table, a collection of materials was prepared.


The Foundation managed to form a community that deals with the problem of network pollution of reservoirs. All involved project participants and community representatives acknowledge the existence of a problem related to sunken fishing nets and poaching. However, despite the unanimous recognition of the existence of the problem, experts put forward different ways to solve it.

After analyzing the results of the field, scientific and analytical parts of the project, Lake Baikal Foundation came to the following conclusions:

  • there are sunken nets on Lake Baikal, and they lead to negative ecosystem and economic consequences;
  • cleaning reservoirs from sunken nets is a very expensive method of solving the problem, therefore:
    1) cleaning of sunken fishing nets may not be the goal of a project or action, but the associated extraction of detected nets and other harmful pollutants (for example, batteries) is important;
    2) greater emphasis should be placed on preventive measures and educational activities;
  • relevant scientific research remains:
    1) study of the process of disintegration of sunken nylon nets into microplastics and study of the concentration of microplastics near sunken nets;
    2) study of the state of water and soil under sunken fishing nets in order to clarify the fact of the formation of “overseas phenomena”;
    3) taking water samples from sunken fishing nets and fragments of nets during algae blooming to determine the type of cyanobacteria that develop on sunken nets.

Sustainable development of the project:

In 2022, the implementation of the Baikal without Networks project will continue. Sampling for scientific research, associated cleaning of the lake, as well as the development of a resolution to address the problem of sunken fishing nets, which will describe in detail possible preventive measures and educational activities that can be implemented both at the legislative and executive levels, both by state bodies and non-governmental organizations, are planned.

The Foundation’s position on issues related to the project may not coincide with the opinion of all its participants and will be based solely on scientific data obtained after its completion.

Publications 2022

Ученые СПб ФИЦ РАН выяснили, что затонувшие рыболовецкие сети могут способствовать распространению в Байкале опасных цианобактерий, Российская академия наук, 09.02.2022

Байкал без ядовитого привкуса, ТАСС, 28.01.2022

Publications 2021

Со дна Байкала подняли около 300 кг затонувших сетей, Проект +1, 18.10.2021

Участники научной экспедиции подняли со дна Байкала около 300 кг затонувших сетей, ТАСС, 18.10.2021

Репортаж про проект в эфире программы «Утро России», Россия 1, 20.08.2021

Число брошенных рыбаками сетей в проливе на Байкале снизилось за два года, ТАСС, 08.08.2021

Кто отравляет Байкал: километры брошенных сетей убивают озеро, Федерал Пресс, 30.06.2021

Фантомный промысел Байкала, Радио России, 29.07.2021

Экологи составят карту затонувших на Байкале рыболовных сетей, Известия, 27.07.2021

Экспедиция по поиску затонувших сетей стартовала на Байкале, Тайга.инфо, 26.07.2021

«Байкал без сетей» — вот чего хотят добиться экоактивисты, Вести Иркутск, 26.07.2021

В Иркутской области началась экспедиция по изучению загрязнения Байкала рыболовными сетями, ТАСС, 26.07.2021

Специалисты изучат загрязнение Байкала брошенными рыболовными сетям, Интерфакс, 26.07.2021

Возможность: проголосовать за проект по очистке Байкала, Верблюд в огне, 31.05.2021

Water Conservation