How to get abandoned, lost and discarded ‘ghost’ fishing gear out of the ocean

The Conversation

Fishing gear and plastic marine debris is a growing global issue. Abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear — often called ghost gear — can contribute up to 76 per cent of all marine debris found during beach cleanups.

Estimates of the weight of abandoned fish gear vary widely by region and by type of gear used. One study retrieved 14 tonnes from the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. In one fishing region in Nova Scotia, an estimated 22 tonnes of fishing gear remains at sea. Overall, an estimated 640,000 tonnes of ghost gear is lost globally in the oceans every year.

This derelict fishing gear continues to catch fish, including commercially valuable and threatened species, and other marine fauna. For example, ghost gear, especially nets, are responsible for entangling seals and sea turtles. One abandoned fishing net in Puget Sound in the United States is expected to catch two invertebrates per day, one fish every three days and one seabird every five days.

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