Scalloped hammerhead in net: Pascal Kobeh / Nature Picture Library

Ghost gear still haunting ocean wildlife, but big business is making improvements


The second edition of our Ghosts Beneath the Waves report shows which fishing companies are moving to protect marine animals – and why others must act now

Ghost gear

Ghost gear is lost, discarded or abandoned fishing gear – and it’s a deadly threat to whales, dolphins, seals, turtles and fish.

Ghost beneath the waves: 2nd edition report

Our new report found that of the world’s 25 leading seafood companies, some are making good progress in stopping their lost fishing gear from killing millions of fish, as well as large numbers of marine animals, every year.


We ranked the companies in tiers 1 (best) to 5 (worst) on their performance on tackling the problem of ghost gear. No companies have achieved Tier 1 status. However, Thai Union, Tri Marine and Bolton Group entered Tier 2 for the first time and have now made ghost gear best practice integral to their business strategy.

The average score for the 15 companies covered in both the 2018 and 2019 assessments has increased from 23% to 30%, with seven companies moving up one or more tiers.

Despite good progress over the last year, the report shows there is much more work to be done to tackle the ghost gear menace. 


Image: whale caught in ghost gear

The impact on animals

  • Over 136,000 whales, dolphins, seals and turtles are caught in ghost gear every year
  • Up to 30% of the decline in some fish stocks can be attributed to ghost gear
  • Lost gear is four times more likely to trap and kill marine animals than all other forms of marine debris combined
  • More than 70% of macroplastics (larger plastic pieces) in the ocean are fishing related
  • It can take up to 600 years to break down

The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI)

We founded the GGGI in 2015 as an alliance dedicated to tackling the problem of ghost fishing gear at a global scale. This diverse initiative boasts NGOs, governments, and companies as members. 

Ingrid Giskes, our global head of campaign – Sea Change, said: “Over the last year the seafood industry has really stepped up to tackle ghost gear and is now taking its responsibilities much more seriously.

“Companies, governments and other stakeholders have acknowledged ghost gear is a major problem that requires dedicated action.”

Find out more about our Sea Change campaign, and how you can help protect marine animals.

Main image: Alessio Viora / Marine Photobank

Despite good progress over the last year, the report shows there is much more work to be done to tackle the ghost gear menace

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