'Ghost fishing,' in which discarded gear threatens life and industry, also hooks rescue teams Beneath the frigid waters of Washington state 's Puget Sound , thousands of abandoned nets once used by fishermen to trap salmon by their gills keep working. They now indiscriminately catch marine life. With no one to pull up the plastic nets, captured animals can't escape and become bait for other creatures to enter the nets. That cycle has entangled and killed nearly 54,000 animals in 2,775 fishing nets removed from Puget Sound by the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative since 2002, says Ginny Broadhurst, executive director of the commission coordinating the effort. Derelict fishing gear ˜ dubbed "ghost gear" by fishers and conservationists ˜ comes in forms such as nets, crab pots and fishing traps. The gear's potential to ensnare animals, damage boats and alter the natural landscape plagues coastal waters around the USA. The problem was dramatized last week when a young gray whale entangled in rope and netting died after swimming listlessly close to shore south of Los Angeles.