A survey that was done last month on 450 fishers from seven big fishing nations estimated that “two per cent of fishing gear used globally ends up in the ocean.”
According to Kelsey Richardson, the lead author on the study, “the share may seem small but the scale of global fishing is enormous.”
The study suggests that the fishing gear amounts to an estimated 3,000 sq. km of gill nets; 740,000 km of longline mainlines, and 25m pots and traps. At the current rates of loss, the research established, the amount of stray fishing nets measured by area would be enough to carpet the surface of the planet in 65 years.
Ingrid Giskes, director of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, a programme facilitated by the Ocean Conservancy that brings together fishers, conservation organisations, industry players and governments says gear is being lost wherever fishing takes place.
It is believed that ghost gear contributes approximately 20 per cent of marine plastic. “It continues to operate as something that catches marine wildlife,” says Christina Dixon, ocean campaign leader at the Environmental Investigation Agency.
The World Wide Fund for Nature argues that fishing waste is the deadliest form of marine plastic, having established that “entanglement or entrapment by ghost gear affects 66 per cent of marine animals, including all sea turtle species and 50 per cent of seabirds.”
According to Giskes, “fishers facing tough economic conditions may take more risks to catch fish hence increasing the likelihood of damaging or losing gear.”
Officially referred to us as “abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear (ALDFG)”, ghost gear is a form marine waste that “comprises fishing nets, ropes, line, traps and other fishing paraphernalia, mostly made up of durable plastics.” Exact figure is unknown; however, it is estimated that between 500,000 and one million tons of ghost gear end up in the seas every year.