Scarier than any Halloween horror flick, ghost gear is finally starting to grab headlines globally. But if you’re not yet familiar with the term, you’re not alone. So what is ghost gear? And more importantly, why should you care?
What is Ghost Gear?
Ghost gear is any fishing gear — nets, lines, and traps — that’s been abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded in our oceans. The cause is rarely intentional and more often because of severe weather, snags under the surface, or a collision with other gear or boats. Regardless, World Animal Protection says ghost gear is found in every sea and ocean on the planet.
Every year 640,000 tons of gear is lost or left in our oceans (that’s as heavy as two Empire State Buildings!) making it one of the biggest threats to our marine life today.
Ghost Gear’s Catastrophic Impact
Thanks to the work of organizations like World Animal Protection, we know that ghost gear kills or mutilates millions of marine animals, including whales, seals, turtles, and birds.
In its report ‘Ghosts beneath the waves’ World Animal Protection found that:
● since 2012, the number of species affected by marine debris has increased by over 23%
● more than half of the ocean’s macroplastics (any piece of plastic bigger than 5mm) measured by weight is fishing related
● ghost gear contributes to an estimated 5 to 30% decline in some fish stock levels
● as many as 92% of encounters between marine animals and debris can cause lethal problems, including ingestion and entanglement
● almost half of all threatened species are impacted by ghost gear
The potential long-term results?
The report says, “Ultimately this could mean our oceans simply stop providing for humans in the many ways we now rely on them.”
How You Can Help Eliminate Ghost Gear
As a Global Ghost Gear Initiative partner, we at Ocean’s are proud to be doing our part to help solve the problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear worldwide.
But the future of our oceans depends on all of us who benefit from them through the air we breathe and the food we eat every day. As a member of the public, you can get involved by:
● Supporting local net recycling initiatives in your area
● Donating to World Animal Protection’s Sea Change campaign
● Buying and eating sustainable seafood from companies that have made a commitment to eliminate ghost gear