Worldwide, plastic has taken centerstage as businesses and even countries are starting to adapt and ban plastic items that have a negative impact on the environment. Most notably, plastic straws and plastic bags are at the forefront of bans as they can take hundreds if not thousands of years to break down.
These bans are pivitol to getting to change the way people think about their daily lives and ensuring that we as humans do our best to protecting this planet. As amazing as these bans are, we are consistently overlooking a problem that is occurring in the seas that is just as large, fishing nets.
A recent survey by the Ocean Cleanup campaign has found that fishing nets, not plastic straws or bags, makes up nearly half of the world’s plastic ocean pollution.
The survey was conducted by collected data from aerial photos of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area twice the size of Texas that is located between Hawaii and California.
The researchers found that 46 percent of the debris in the garbage patch came from fishing nets or ghost gear.
“The impact of this junk goes well beyond pollution,” notes Adam Minter in Bloomberg. “Ghost gear, as it’s sometimes called, goes on fishing long after it’s been abandoned, to the great detriment of marine habitats.”
Just as plastic is, fishing nets are responsible for the death of thousands of marine species each year when cut free from ships. Just as they are designed to, the nets capture marine species when even when they are not purposely deployed as a product of bycatch. Often an animal that finds its way into the abandoned net becomes entangled and suffocates and dies.
As overfishing already cause a imbalance ecosystem due to the devastating practice of overfishing, the gear that is cut or left in the ocean only adds to the amount of total wildlife loss due to one industry.
The good news is that there is something you can do. Many ocean conservation organizations such as Oceana are actively fighting for the stronger laws to reduce overfishing and ghost gear. By supporting them, you are giving them the opportunity to push harder to reduce the devastation caused by the crippling practices. As well, please write local, federal and state politicians urging them to support stricter laws. Every voice matters and you never know how far yours may take you.