A seal is pictured caught in a discarded fishing net. 

 

Our science team has been deep-diving into the scary reality of ghost fishing, the process of creating mass graveyards of marine creatures, and the destruction of marine habitats.

What is Ghost Fishing?

Ghost Fishing occurs when discarded fishing equipment continues to ensnare and, ultimately, kill sea creatures in the oceans. This gear can enter the ocean through general wear and tear, being lost due to storm, or being deliberately dumped. So, how much of an issue is ghost fishing? Well, according to a recent UN report, it is estimated that between 600,000-800,000 metric tonnes of ghost gear enters the ocean each year. However, the Director of the Trash Free Seas Program at Ocean Conservatory states that this is likely a conservative estimate:

“Ghost gear is the most deadly form of marine litter out there. It is a very serious form of debris that has a real impact”.

This abandoned gear, through whatever means ending up in the ocean, is a huge source of ghost fishing and microplastic pollution. Shockingly, “5.7% of all fishing nets, 8.6% of all traps, and 29% of all lines are lost around the world each year” (Richardson et al., 2019).

The Solution?

There is currently no clear solution to ghost fishing. However, there have been breakthroughs in discussions with a shift toward more tangible solutions;

  • Accountability: Marking fishing gear at the manufacturing stage for traceability.
  • Process: Enhance the use of biodegradable fishing pots (and promote testing on the ecotoxicological profile of the polymer used and its deriving compounds when degraded)
  • Recycling: Encouraging innovation and design to ensure the recycling of the plastics used in the fishing industry within a circular economy framework

What Can you do Next?

Richard Walker is the chairman of Ghost Fishing UK, a registered charity within the UK that is dedicated to the understanding and solution to Ghost Fishing within the UK shores. They survey and remove nets, fishing gears, and other marine debris that pose a threat to marine life in the UK waters.

If you would like to find out more, then you can sign up for the Ghost Fishing UK Newsletter here. You can follow Plastic Oceans UK on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates within the plastic pollution scientific community.