A female Grey seal is tangled in a discarded fishing net off Devon, U.K. (Alex Mustard/naturepl.com)

Lost fishing gear threatens marine life


The group, World Animal Protection Canada, is urging Canada and all nations to deal with lost and discarded fishing gear that kills and maims ocean life including whales, porpoises, turtles and seabirds.

Issue raised at international meeting

Its research suggests that 640,000 metric tons of gear makes its way into oceans every year and it is asking for action from those attending a G7 meeting now taking place in the eastern Canadian city of Halifax. The meeting dubbed “Working Together on Climate Change, Oceans and Clean Energy” has attracted environment, oceans and energy ministers, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and advocacy groups.

The  Canadian government invited World Animal Protection Canada to the meeting to present its findings on so-called ghost gear problem.

Josey Kitson says action on the ghost gear problem must be global. (World Animal Protection Canada)


‘Ghost gear doesn’t know boundaries’

“It’s very, very important that the solutions are global, says the group’s executive director, Josey Kitson. “It’s not enough for one government to be acting very effectively and efficiently on ghost gear and to have another government not act at all. Ghost gear doesn’t know boundaries. It doesn’t stop at a country’s ocean boundary.”

In fact, the group has found tags from lobster traps set off eastern Canada that turned up thousands of kilometres away in U.K. waters.

A whale breaches while entangled in a lobster trap line off the coast of Mexico. (Brandon Cole/naturepl.com)

Fishermen could retrieve in the off-season

In order to deal with the problem, Kitson says there first need to be systems in place for fishers to report lost gear. The next need is for retrieval. Kitson says some countries employ fishers in the off season to collect lost or abandoned gear. Once ghost gear is collected, it can be recycled and made into bathing suits, flip flops, mats and other products.

Canadian government announcement tomorrow

So far, 12 countries have signed on to the Global Ghost Gear Initiative to promote solutions. They include the U.K, New Zealand, Tonga, Sweden and the Dominican Republic. Kitson would like to see the Canadian government take a leadership role on this issue. A government spokesperson said today there will be an announcement about its role tomorrow, September 20, 2018. Radio Canada International is planning an interview with the minister responsible which we hope to post on our site soon after.

Members of World Animal Protection and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative remove an old net from water off Canada’s Pacific coast. (World Animal Protection)

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