In research carried out by World Animal Protection, they have discovered that the world’s biggest seafood companies are all contributing to the deaths of more than 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals, turtles, and seabirds a year that are killed by ghost gear.
Ghost gear is any discarded, lost, or abandoned, fishing gear in the marine environment. Many of the animals are drowned, strangled or mutilated by plastic gear lost or abandoned at sea while others suffer “a prolonged and painful death, usually suffocating or starving.”
Plastic in our oceans have become so bad that there is now 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and plastic is expected to outweigh fish by 2050. Research has started to show that the oceans could end up unable to provide any catches for humans due to overfishing and the fish containing too much plastic, making them inedible.
Each year 640,000 tons of ghost gear is added to the ocean which is a rate of more than a ton every minute. A large portion of the ghost gear comes from illegal fishing as crews that have netting in the water are forced to drop them in a hurry to avoid detection.
The study looked at the approaches to fishing equipment of the world’s 15 biggest seafood companies, to rank them in five categories but found that none of them could be ranked in the top two for having “best practice” or “responsible handling” of their fishing gear.
The best ranking given out was to Britain’s best known seafood giant, Young’s. Coming in the third category, they received the category of “work to do.”
The report outlined that 30% of the decline in fish stocks can be attributed to ghost gear in the oceans. Abandoned and lost gear is four times more likely to trap and kill animals than all other forms of marine debris combined.
In high fished areas, the amount of ghost gear in one area can be astounding. In one deep water fishery in the northeast Atlantic, 25,000 nets have been recorded as lost or discared in a year. In the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, it is estimated that there are 85,000 active ghost lobster and crab pots.
In one deep water fishery in the north east Atlantic 25,000 nets have been recorded as lost or discarded each year, according to the report.
“Even within small areas, the amount of ghost gear can be staggering,” it said. “The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, for example, is estimated to be littered with 85,000 active ghost lobster and crab pots.
That ranking really sums up the astounding findings of the study as the fishing industry is virtually unregulated in adding to the pollution that already plagues our world. In response, World Animal Protection is pressuring supermarkets to demand their suppliers to regulate fishing practices to ensure that nets, lines, and traps are properly disposed of.
The study did discuss that three companies- Young’s Seafood, TriMarine, and Thai Union- have established policies on ghost gear. Bumble Bee Seafoods, one of the United States’ largest seafood companies was found to show limited published evidence of implementing changes.
World Animal Protection runs and operates the organization Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), whom is addressing the fishing litter issue through government partnerships and campaigns.
World Animal Protection has also written to the admirals of the world’s 10 most powerful navies calling on them to increase patrols to combat illegal and unregulated fishing.
Consumers of seafood have the potential to have a major impact the issue as well. If the consumers choose to not purchase a brand Like Bumble Bee Seafoods due to their fishing practices, the market will drive these companies to strictly enforce regulations on fishing gear pollution.