One critical factor not mentioned in Emma Bryce’s excellent piece on wasted fish harvests (Millions of tonnes of dead animals: the growing scandal of fish waste, 9 May) is the threat of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear, also known as ghost gear. A single abandoned net is estimated to kill an average of 500,000 marine invertebrates (think crabs and shrimp), 1,700 fish and four seabirds. Over time, lost fishing gear – the majority of which is made of plastics – breaks down into microplastics, which then enter the ocean food chain and leach toxic chemicals. In fact, Ocean Conservancy studies have found that ghost gear is the single most harmful form of marine debris.
Fortunately, there are solutions. Ocean Conservancy’s Global Ghost Gear Initiative unites governments, NGOs and key players in the fishing industry to adopt best practices to prevent, mitigate and remove ghost gear.
Additionally, we are urging UN member states to address ghost gear as part of their negotiations of the international legally binding instrument on plastics. As Bryce notes, this isn’t just about fish – it’s about food security for 3 billion people and the sustainability of our oceans.
Senior director of the Global Ghost Gear initiative and international government relations for Ocean Conservancy