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Cleaning up the ocean from abandoned fishing gear

Lost or abandoned fishing gear (also known as ‘ghost gear’) makes up 70% of the plastics that disrupt our oceans’ ecosystem. After fishing gear has been disregarded by fishermen from all over the world, the gear continues to catch and harm fish and other marine inhabitants that cannot escape anymore.

Fishing gear like the nets are mostly made out of plastic and when resting in the ocean, they can leak toxins, kill and harm local wildlife and ultimately  end up as pollutants in our water and fish of the area. The main contributing factors of fishermen leaving their gear behind are  weather, gear conflict, and illegal fishing.

Ecotrust Canada is a partner in the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), working to defining best practices and informing policy for seafood stakeholders. Our Project Manager for Fisheries & Marine Monitoring Jennifer Paton shares more about our work within this initiative.

The world’s largest initiative to remove disused fishing gear

The GGGI was founded in 2015 by World Animal Protection to protect our oceans and the life within them. It is the world’s largest cross-sectoral alliance committed to driving solutions regarding the removal of derelict fishing gear. While the problem of ghost gear has been worked on in the past, it was done in a small , national and rather unorganized manner.

Today, governments, NGOs, researchers and industries from 13 participating nations collaborate in sharing data and best practices for the  removal and prevention of ghost gear. I participated in the GGGI conference in Bali this October, which gathered the cross sectoral group together to address the problem, and participants from all over the world highlighted issues and solutions from their area.

Scaling up local best practices to a global level

The GGGI’s work has three areas of focus: building evidence; defining best practices & informing policy; and catalyzing & replicating solutions. As a part of the best practices team, we put out a large report of recommendations on how to minimize lost and abandoned gear, and we’re also working on short fact sheets targeted to specific seafood stakeholders. The group has been active in offering  input to seafood certification bodies, governing agencies or commissions, as well as industry associations.

In the history of Ecotrust Canada’s collaboration and work with the GGGI, we’ve also made recommendations on new regulations around better tracking of fishing gear, especially regarding the small scale fishing industry in Canada. It has also enabled us to learn more about progress in fisheries monitoring, reporting and tracking in other parts of the world.

Way to go!

Ultimately, the initiative is looking to change behaviors to prevent fishing gear loss, although the conference also highlighted all kinds of clean ups and recycling efforts worldwide. The clean-up of nets, pots, hook & line and fads is currently done either by privately engaged boat owners, divers, fishermen themselves or governmentally and corporately funded initiatives. When the ghost gear is retrieved from the water, which is made out of mixed material, our goal is to reuse it as part of the marine plastics recycling chain.

Examples from all over the world can be found here: https://www.ghostge–

Just recently the Government of Canada has joined the GGGI and members in BC will be getting together in 2019 for a workshop to discuss and implement some regional solutions learned at the conference. We are looking forward to the next year and an ongoing partnership in the future!

For more information about the GGGI, visit:

[Published Nov. 16, 2018]