“Ghost Gear” Pollution Is Choking Our Oceans

Photo by Tim Sheerman-Chase/Wikimedia Commons

Recent findings have started to bring to light how devastating plastic pollution is to the oceans and marine life. A problem that is often overseen is lost and discarded fishing gear, including nets and lines, that are adding to the pollution in the ocean.

A new report has found that a total of 700,000 tons of ghost fishing gear is added to the ocean every year. The report, written by World Animal Protections, explains that ghost gear is a problem that spells catastrophe for marine life as we know it and that the majority of entanglements cause serious harm or death.

A major factor in the problem associated with this much ghost gear going into our ocean is it can take 600 years to decompose. With 700,000 tons of it going into our seas every year, with the inability to break down, the fishing materials build up to cause significant complications for marine life.

Damage from ghost gear has been found to significantly impact coral reefs, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, birds, and a variety of fish. Once the animal becomes entangled, they rarely are able to escape, typically leading to death.
The swallowing of fishing gear is a huge concern as well. It can lead to malnutrition, digestive blockages, poor health, and death.

The harm on wildlife is significant but humans are feeling the impact as well. The ghost gear is killing significant populations of seafood that would otherwise be caught by fisheries. In a society where food shortage is a real concern for many people, the waste of potential catch due to irresponsible practices is very disheartening.

The fisheries who are losing the potential catch are the very same who are causing the problem. The report also identified a specific deep-water-fishery in the Atlantic that lost or discarded as many as 25,000 nets each year.

World Animal Protection is taking their findings and directly applying it to try and solve the issue. The group has created Global Ghost Gear Initiative where they are aiming to develop solutions to the issue of ghost fishing equipment. Solutions thus far have including retrieving and recycling fishing gear, manufacturing biodegradable equipment, and marking fishing nets as this can reduce the frequency with which they are discarded.

The good news is this is problem that is very solvable. As groups like World Animal Protection aim to try and get the fishing industry to be more responsible, everyday boaters, divers, fisherman, and beach-goers can do their part by picking nets off the beach or out of the water.

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