Lost and abandoned fishing gear is one of the most significant contributors to the earth’s plastic problem. Although single use plastics such as plastic straws, water bottles, and grocery bags are often targeted by environmental groups, fishing gear is a far bigger problem in the ocean garbage situation. Global Ghost Gear Initiative was started by World Animal Protection in 2015 to address the issue.
Fishing nets make up almost half the weight of the 80,000 ton Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Crab pots, oyster spacers, ropes, and eel traps are also part of the patch. World Animal Protection Canada’s executive director, Josey Kitson, says lost gear is one of the biggest hazards for marine life. Research shows 136,000 seals, sea lions, and small whales die each year after being tangled in lost fishing gear.
Of the ghost gear Kitson says, “It does what it’s meant to do, which is catch fish.” The gear can float thousands of miles and exist for hundreds of years. Lobster traps from North American shores have been found on beaches in the United Kingdom.
“It does what it’s meant to do, which is catch fish.”
Fishers, beachgoers, and volunteers on the East Coast are often prevented from removing ghost gear because of regulations which prohibit collecting gear you don’t own. Global Ghost Gear Initiative stresses the need for a system to report lost gear, as well as improving the ability to remove rogue nets and lines from the water.
Go to Global Ghost Gear Initiative for more information.