World Animal Protection (WAP), an international non-profit animal welfare organization, this week is using the 33rd Committee on Fisheries (COFI), in Rome, Italy, to push for all fishing nets to contain identification tags by 2025.
And it’s asking the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to get behind the idea.
“Every year more than one hundred thousand whales, dolphins, seals, and turtles are caught in ghost gear -- abandoned, lost and discarded fishing nets, lines and traps which can take up to 600 years to decompose,” the group advises in a press release. “A staggering 640,000 metric tons, the equivalent of 52,000 London double-decker buses, of ghost gear is left in our oceans each year. Some nets lost in the oceans are bigger than football pitches.”
Physical tags, chemical marking, color-coding, radio-frequency identification, radio beacons and satellite buoys are among the many tagging approaches available, the group said.
Requiring tagging “will help fishermen retrieve gear they have accidentally lost, dissuade anyone from deliberately abandoning it, and will also help identify fishing practices taking place illegally,” said Ingrid Giskes, WAP’s global head of sea change, in a separate statement sent to Undercurrent News.
Seven out of ten (71%) fish entanglements involve plastic ghost gear, and an estimated 5% to 30% of the decline in some fish stocks can also be attributed to ghost gear, she claimed.
The topic of ghost gear is not new to the FAO. WAP has been discussing and developing best practice for the marking of fishing gear with the international group since 2014. In 2016, FAO member countries adopted a recommendation to develop gear-marking guidelines.
In January 2017, WAP convened an expert workshop in Jakarta to discuss the development of a project in Indonesia on the marking of fishing gear in two pilot sites using gillnets.
Now WAP is asking FAO to call on governments to “fully endorse the recommendations of the Technical Consultation on Voluntary Guidelines for the Marking of Fishing Gear and ensure the necessary support for their implementation is provided.” It’s also asking them to support a proposal from the FAO to further develop a global program to prevent, reduce and eliminate ghost gear worldwide.
“Marking fishing gear, as part of a package of preventative fisheries management measures, will help whales, dolphins, seals, and turtles who get caught in this incredibly durable gear by making it possible for gear to be traced back to its source,” Giskes said. “The UN must show leadership and protect our oceans from ghost gear.”
COFI is going on from July 9 until July 13.
Global Ghost Gear Initiative - Founded in 2015 by World Animal Protection, the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) is a cross-sectoral alliance committed to driving solutions to the problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear (ghost gear) worldwide. The GGGI aims to improve the health of marine ecosystems, protect marine animals, and safeguard human health and livelihoods by working globally and locally to build evidence, defining best practices and informing policies, and catalyzing and replicating solutions. As part of the alliance, Project AWARE contributes ghost gear data reported by Dive Against Debris® volunteers, helping build evidence of the issue to define best practices and inform policy change.
Photo courtesy of Temple Adventures, India