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The fishing industry increases its efforts to counteract lost fishing equipment

The fishing industry increases its efforts to counteract lost fishing equipment

A new report recently released by the NGO World Animal Protection found that the world's top 25 fishing companies are making progress to stop their lost fishing nets, which are killing millions of uncollected fish and vast numbers of marine animals each year.

What are ghost fishing nets?

Ghost fishing nets (ALDFG, for its acronym in English) is used to refer to abandoned, discarded, or lost fishing gear in the ocean that may take up to 600 years to decompose. It is a little known term (unfortunately), since these are the causes of havoc in the life of marine animals that are not the target of fishing, and therefore accidentally die.

What happens is that nets, lines and traps are floating in the sea due to carelessness, bad weather or improper use, among other reasons. As a consequence, they cause injuries or kill hundreds of thousands of whales, seals, turtles and birds. , who die slowly and painfully.

Among the most affected species are the jubarte whale, the southern right whale, dolphins, the vaquita (in danger of extinction) and turtles. In Brazil, for example, about 80% of sea turtle deaths are caused by ghost fishing nets.

Some statistical data to understand its serious effects

  • Each year, 640,000 tons of fishing equipment is discarded into the oceans, injuring and killing millions of fish, whales, seals, dolphins and other marine animals.
  • At least 136,000 large whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and turtles become entangled in the ghost team.
  • Ghost kits, often made of plastic, can keep trapping and killing animals for 600 years.
  • 71% of marine animal entanglements involve ghost gear.
  • More than 70% of the macroplastics (plastic pieces larger than 5mm) found in the ocean are related to fishing.
  • The equivalent of 52,000 London double-decker buses or 65 Eiffel Towers is the amount of ghost gear left in the oceans each year.

It should be clarified that in addition to the suffering that animals suffer, the effects of ghost fishing also impact our lives, since decrease the amount of fish in the oceans by up to 30%.

The advancement of fishing companies

After publishing in 2018 a first report on the state of ghost fishing nets, this year the NGO World Animal Protection has released a new one, Ghosts Beneath the Waves: 2nd Edition, which ranks the behavior of 25 companies of seafood.

The evaluation levels range from 1 (best practices) to 5 (no commitment) in relation to their ability to address the problem of "ghost teams".

As in 2018, no company reached level 1. However, three of the world's leading seafood companies, have entered level 2 for the first time, and now they have incorporated the best practices regarding "ghost teams" into their business strategy.


  • Thai Union, which has a global portfolio of popular brands, such as John West and Chicken of the Sea, is committed to ensuring fisheries improvement projects in the eastern Atlantic and Indian Ocean that are in line with The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (Global Ghost Gear Initiative or GGGI), comprising the framework of practice and the FAO voluntary guidelines on the marking of fishing gear.
  • TriMarine, which provides tuna supply related services to major tuna brands around the world, has a clear strategy to address ghost equipment and 100% traceability.
  • Bolton Group, present in 45 offices, sells brands such as Rio Mare Tuna and exports to more than 30 countries. They are one of the only companies with clear goals for phantom nets when it comes to net recovery and Fish Concentration Devices (DCP).

General Ranking

Level 1 - Leading / establishing best practices None of those evaluated
Level 2 - Achiever / Comprehensive for Business StrategyThai Union, TriMarine, Bolton Group
Level 3 - Improving / established, but with work to do Bumble Bee Foods, Nueva Pescanova Group
Level 4 - Committed / on the agenda, but limited evidence of implementation American Seafoods, Cargill Aqua Nutrition, Dongwon Industries, Grupo Calvo, High Liner Foods, Nippon Suisan (Nissui), Nutreco, Pacific Seafood Group, Princes, Young’s Seafood
Level 5 - Uncommitted / no evidence that ALDFG is on the business agendaAndrew Marr International, Austevoll, Beaver Street Fisheries, Camil, Clearwater Seafoods, Cooke Seafood, East Coast Seafood Group, Frinsa, Maruha Nichiro Corporation, Nippon Suisan (Nissui), Samherji

The average score of the 15 companies covered in both 2018 and 2019 assessments increased from 23% to 30%, with seven companies advancing one or more levels. In 2019, 10 additional companies were also evaluated.

Despite good progress in the last year, the report shows that there is much more work to do to face the threat of ghost fishing nets.

Acting for a change

The lost team is four times more likely to catch and kill marine animals than all other forms of marine debris combined. In addition, it is also contributing to plastic problem in the ocean, with more than 70% of macroplastics related to fisheries.

The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), an alliance founded by World Animal Protection in 2015, is dedicated to tackling the problem of ghost fishing nets on a global scale.. The strength of the GGGI lies in the diversity of its participants, including the fishing industry, the private sector, academia, governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. Each participant has a critical role to play in mitigating ghost teams locally, regionally, and globally.

Ingrid Giskes, Global Director of Marine Change at World Animal Protection, said: “Over the past year, the seafood industry has really struggled to address the ghost gear issue and is now taking its responsibilities much more seriously. Companies, governments and other stakeholders have recognized that phantom computers are a major problem that must be addressed quickly.

“The GGGI has welcomed around 40 new members in the last 12 months. The report clearly demonstrates that companies that join the GGGI perform better in addressing ghost teams in their supply chains, as well as contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We look forward to welcoming more members who want to protect marine life. "

The GGGI developed the Best Practice Framework (BPF) for the management of phantom teams.

Using technology to help animals

The reality is that thanks to technology, companies can change the fate of marine life. If all commercial fishing equipment were identified, companies and fishers could ensure that the nets were not lost or discarded, but returned with them, thus avoiding animal suffering. Additionally, law enforcement agencies would have the opportunity to track down violators.

Some alternatives:

  • Physical labels
  • Chemical marking
  • Color coding
  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
  • Radio beacons
  • Satellite buoys

Spread the message to your close friends so that more and more companies commit to change, not only in their behavior, but above all in animal life and the environment!

More information: www.ghostgear.org

Video: Best Practices to Prevent and Reduce abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear (October 2020).