The Abandoned Fishing Nets Haunting Our Oceans
Pollution of the world’s oceans is a growing and pervasive problem, and that is especially true of the increasing volume of ocean plastic. A staggering 12 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean every year, the equivalent of emptying a rubbish truck into the ocean every minute. All plastic in the oceans can trap, entangle, smother or kill animals. However there is one particular type of plastic pollution that is especially deadly because it is specifically designed to catch and kill marine wildlife: Abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear, or so-called ‘ghost gear’.
Over the past few decades, the fishing industry worldwide has increasingly used plastic in ropes, nets and lines, as well as other fishing equipment. Plastic’s lightness, buoyancy, durability and cheapness make it ideal for fishing. Unfortunately, the same qualities also make ghost nets and lines a fatal and growing threat to marine life, and the communities that depend on healthy oceans thriving with life.
Fishing gear can be lost by accident or abandoned at sea deliberately. Once there, nets and lines can pose a threat to wildlife for years or decades, ensnaring everything from small fish and crustaceans to endangered turtles, seabirds and even whales. Spreading throughout the ocean on tides and currents, lost and discarded fishing gear is now drifting to Arctic coastlines, washing up on remote Pacific Islands, entangled on coral reefs and littering the deep sea floor.