Call for Seafood Companies to Act on Ghost Gear


By The Maritime Executive 03-10-2018 08:35:18

A new report from World Animal Protection calls for the world’s 15 biggest seafood companies to do more to stop their lost fishing nets killing millions of fish every year. 

An estimated five to 30 percent of the decline in some fish stocks can be attributed to ghost gear- abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear, which can take up to 600 years to decompose. 

Every year more than one hundred thousand whales, dolphins, seals and turtles become entangled in ghost gear, and 45 percent of marine mammals on the Red List of Threatened Species have been impacted. At least 640,000 tons of ghost gear are added to our oceans every year, killing and mutilating millions of other marine animals. 

The report ranks the 15 biggest seafood companies on their ability to address the problem of ghost gear. It indicates that 80 percent of assessed companies do not have a clear position on ghost fishing gear or publicly acknowledge the issue. 

The report highlights some specific cases:

•  In just one deep water fishery in the north east Atlantic some 25,000 nets have been recorded lost or discarded annually. 

•  Almost 5000 derelict nets removed from Puget Sound through retrieval programs were entangling over 3.5 million marine animals annually, including 1300 marine mammals, 25,000 birds, and 100,000 fish. 

•  Derelict fish traps near Oman are estimated to cause marine mortalities between 57 kilograms per trap in a three-month period alone. One study estimates over 15,000 traps lost within this study area every year. 

•  At current fishing levels, over the next 60 years in the Florida Keys alone, a staggering 11 million traps could become lost.

Ben Pearson of World Animal Protection, said: “Fishing gear is designed to catch and kill, and when it is lost or abandoned in the ocean it continues to do this, becoming the most harmful form of marine debris for sea animals. It’s heart-breaking to know that animals caught in this incredibly durable gear can suffer from debilitating wounds, suffocate or starve to death over a number of months. We hope to see the seafood companies at the bottom of the ranking working hard to address this global issue in future years. Joining the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) is an important first step they can take.” 

The GGGI is an alliance founded by World Animal Protection in 2015, dedicated to tackling the problem of ghost fishing gear at a global scale with practical solutions. GGGI participants include the fishing industry, the private sector, academia, governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

Many of the projects undertaken by World Animal Protection and GGGI participants have recognized the need to include fishing communities in ghost gear solutions. Inclusive, incentivized business models have proven to be highly effective. Local communities are empowered to be authors of solutions to ghost fishing gear, rather than labeled as an uncaring part of the problem. Funds generated by projects benefit local people as a whole, encouraging further participation and a sense of investment in their coastlines.