December 31, 2017
Ghosts beneath the waves
Abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear — otherwise known as 'ghost gear' — is a problem that spells catastrophe for marine life as we know it. At least 640,000 tonnes of ghost gear are added to our oceans every year, killing and mutilating millions of marine animals— including endangered whales, seals and turtles. The vast majority of entanglements cause serious harm or death. Swallowing plastic remnants from ghost gear leads to malnutrition, digestive blockages, poor health and death. 45% of all marine mammals on the Red List of Threatened Species have been impacted by lost or abandoned fishing gear. Already threatened ecosystems, including shallow coral reef habitats, also suffer further degradation from ghost fishing gear. Ghost gear undermines the viability of our fisheries too, as it catches and kills an enormous volume of seafood which would otherwise form part of the regular catch, in some cases worth millions of dollars depending on the fishery.