Ghost gear refers to any fishing equipment or fishing-related litter that has been abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded.
As an island nation we are reliant upon healthy productive seas for a sustainable fishing industry. Whist diving we often see the negative impact that ghost gear has upon marine life and their habitats. We are active members of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and work closely with partners and the fishing industry to find comprehensive and sustainable solutions to this problem.
It is estimated that there is 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear lost annually at sea. According to our partners, the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust, the UK has 44% of the world’s population of Grey Seals. Also, that due to interactions caused by their playful and inquisitive nature the highest rate of entanglement in ghost gear than anywhere else in the world. Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Marine Standings Network have reported a large increase in marine stranding’s of cetaceans, a large number of which were caused by fishing gear. Likewise, the British Divers Marine Life Rescue are regularly called to rescue marine life entangled in ghost gear.
One of the major problems with ghost gear is due to the man-made materials used in manufacturing that pose a persistent threat to the marine environment, by surviving for hundreds of years. Fathoms Free have recovered nets off the wreck of a trawler that has been underwater for 40 years. Even though the vessel is now unrecognisable after being torn apart by storms, the net has survived with its structural integrity almost intact.
The problem is diverse and not just related to commercial fishing. Therefore, working with the fishing industry to get a clear understanding of the challenges they face is vital for success. Practices such as Angling and pot fishing are highly sustainable types of fishing which we wouldn’t want to discourage. Fisherman do not want to lose their gear, however when working in a harsh environment some losses are unavoidable. We aid fishermen by diving to recover lost gear which if serviceable can be reused and by removing the ghost gear that causes unnecessary by-catch, thus increasing available stock.
There are many ways to help us. Simply picking up a small piece of net or fishing line form your local beach could have a great impact, or you could join us in one of our beach cleans or dive events. Alternatively, if you would like to donate to us, any amount makes a huge difference to us DONATE HERE
Have you had any sightings of ghost gear?
Reporting sightings of ghost gear to us is very valuable, please contact us at: https://fathomsfree.org/contactus/ and send sightings to World Animal Protection using the link below