How Our Love of Seafood is Strangling Marine Life

We hear a lot about marine pollution and how it’s hurting wildlife, but much less attention is paid to the impact of discarded fishing gear — fishing gear that is used to procure all the seafood the world consumes.

Seafood companies are leaving behind thousands of tons of fishing materials, or “ghost gear,” that are choking our marine life, according to a new report.

The report, released this week by World Animal Protection (WAP), revealed that 640,000 metric tons of ghost gear, including nets, lines and traps, are lost or abandoned in the ocean every year, and that’s only what we know about.

Hawksbill-GreenSea-Turtle-tangled-net_noaa_720Credit: NOAA

It’s already causing major issues for marine life, and the problem is only expected to get worse as fisheries intensify to meet demands.

rseal_strap_kathyfrost_lrgCredit: Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Ghost gear is entangling and choking hundreds of thousands of animals every year from whales, dolphins, seals, sea turtles, sharks, seabirds and penguins to fragile coral reefs, among hundreds of others – many of which are already vulnerable or endangered.

20180213-entangled-right-whale-1000Credit: NOAA

According to WAP, lost gear is four times more likely to trap and kill marine animals than all other forms of marine debris combined, and it’s also contributing to the plastic problem, as more than 70 percent of macroplastics by weight are related to fishing.

VJ22  W/MCredit: NOAA

These entanglements cause serious injuries and death for many species who become victims below the surface, and for some it’s slow and drawn out. If these incidents were happening regularly on land, there would be outcry, but unfortunately for most of the animals who are suffering as a result of ghost gear, their tragic stories unfold far out at sea, below the surface.

humpback-entanglement-1Credit: MMC

“It’s heart-breaking to know that animals caught in this incredibly durable gear can suffer from debilitating wounds or suffocate or starve to death over a number of months,” said WAP CEO Steve McIvor.

monsternet4Credit: NOAA

The report also looked at 15 of the biggest seafood producers and found that while a few are taking some steps to address the problem, they’re mostly falling far short of their responsibility to deal with their gear.

WAP’s Global Ghost Gear Initiative is working to find solutions to this problem; there have been many recommendations from annually auditing gear to providing incentives to retrieve it, but the problem is going to persist as long as fishing does – especially while there is illegal fishing.

Hopefully more awareness about the problem will inspire people to leave fish off their plates, not only for fish themselves, but for marine ecosystems.

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Photo credit: E. Lyman/HWS and NOAA

89 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y1 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y1 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J1 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J1 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Marie W
Marie W9 months ago

Thank you

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo Rabout a year ago

go vegan, ty

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Paulo R
Paulo Rabout a year ago

go vegan, ty

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Paulo R
Paulo Rabout a year ago

go vegan, ty

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Angela K
Angela Kabout a year ago

How must finally stop this destruction :-/

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Jaime J
Jaime Jabout a year ago

Thank you!!

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