‘Ghost Gear’ In Sea Threatening Marine Life: Report

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New Delhi(PTI): Ever heard of ghosts under the waves? Environmentalists warn that they exist and have been leading to the depletion of fish stocks.

Ghost gear — or lost and abandoned fishing gear left in the oceans — posed a serious threat to marine life, a report said, adding that 5-30 per cent of the decline in some fish stocks could be attributed to these menaces.

Concerned by this, an animal protection body has asked the Indian government to ensure that planned loans through the fishery and aquaculture infrastructure development fund also address the issue of ghost gear.

The report –“Ghosts Beneath the Waves” — released today by World Animal Protection (WAP) said better infrastructure, including access to port reception facilities where the fishing community could dispose of end of life fishing gear, was needed to prevent nets and other such equipment from ending up in the oceans.

Making these facilities free of charge to fishing communities was important, it said.

Welcoming the recent announcement by the Indian government that it would invest in upgrading the fishery and aquaculture infrastructure, it noted that many people in India depended on the sustainable management of the oceans, both for their livelihood and food security.

“We hope India will join the 12 nations that currently already support the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) to show its leadership in this area and establish a mechanism for further exchange of views and best practices with other stakeholders around the world,” said Gajender K Sharma, India Country Director, WAP.

The WAP report said the world’s 15 biggest seafood companies needed to do more to stop their lost fishing nets killing millions of fish every year.

“An estimated 5 to 30 per cent of the decline in some fish stocks can be attributed to ‘ghost gear’ – abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), which can take up to 600 years to decompose,” the body said.

It said in the report the 15 seafood companies were ranked from 1 to 5 on their ability to address the problem of ghost gear, with tier 1 being the best and tier 5 the worst.

Not one of the companies achieved tier 1 or 2 status, it said.

Noting that the prevention of ghost gear was vital as it not only depleted fish stocks but also killed marine life, WAP noted that every year more than 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals and turtles became entangled in ghost gear.

Lost gear is four times more likely to trap and kill marine animals than all other forms of marine debris combined. In addition, it also contributes to the ocean’s plastic problem with more that 70 per cent of macroplastics by weight being fishing related.

Ingrid Giskes, Global Head of Sea Change at WAP, said fishing gear was designed to catch and kill, and when left in the ocean was the most harmful form of marine debris for animals.

Animals caught in this incredibly durable gear can suffer from debilitating wounds or suffocate or starve to death over a number of months, Giskes said.

“We hope to see the companies at the bottom of the ranking working hard to improve and rise in the ranking in future years. These companies must remember that consumers demonstrate they care about the welfare of animals when they are deciding what brands to put in the shopping baskets. Joining the Global Ghost Gear Initiative is an important first step they can take,” Giskes said.

The GGGI, an alliance founded in 2015 by WAP, an international non-profit animal welfare body, is dedicated to tackling the problem of ghost gear on a global scale.

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