Riding the wave of sea change
Ghost fishing gear is four times more likely to impact marine animals by trapping, injuring, mutilating, or killing them than all other forms of marine debris combined.
A new Oxford University report shows that some parts of the ocean are near tipping point, so the commitment from 11 UN countries to protect ocean life comes at a critical time.
Uniting to protect our oceans
At the UN Ocean Conference in June, countries recognised this shared responsibility for our oceans. More than 1,393 commitments from organisations and governments were pledged, which means these groups will take action to reverse the decline in ocean health.
Voluntary commitments are initiatives undertaken with the aim to contribute to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14. Ghost gear featured high on the agenda, with 11 countries signing the Statement of Support for the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI).
The GGGI is an alliance of governments, NGOs, private sector and academia which we founded in 2015 to tackle the problem of ghost gear worldwide.
Belgium, Sweden, New Zealand, Tonga, Panama, The Netherlands, Dominican Republic, Tuvalu, Samoa and Palau all welcomed the GGGI and supported its commitment to improve the health of marine ecosystems, protect marine animals from harm and safeguard human health and livelihoods.
Belgium will fund a vital GGGI project
Belgium also partnered with GGGI as a key sponsor and has pledged significant financial support to deliver a pilot project on the marking of fishing gear.
Mr Didier Reynders, Belgian deputy prime minister and minister of foreign and European affairs said: "We must strive to make the private sector, fishing industry, academia and governments work together to reduce the impact lost gear has on the economic sector, food security and most importantly on marine ecosystems.
"Certification and marking of gear to make it traceable and recycling of retrieved materials are some of the most promising solutions. My country supports the gear recovery initiative and recycling as a principle."
Making a difference at SeaWeb Seafood Summit
Governments, and NGOs like us, cannot make this change alone. That’s why we also attended the SeaWeb Seafood Summit to present our best practice framework for protecting our oceans from ghost gear.
The industry is looking to become more sustainable and limit its impact on vulnerable marine ecosystems. So seafood companies, retailers and fishing industry representatives in the audience, were very receptive to the practical guidance we developed with the GGGI best practice working group, through a wide public consultation.
The framework outlines practical steps that industry can take to prevent and mitigate gear loss and its harmful and costly effects; and better manage fishing gear across different parts of the industry and business operations.
Partnership is vital
Ghost gear is one of the deadliest forms of marine litter. A 2016 study published in Marine Policy by Wilcox et al. found fishing-related gear to be one of the three sources of marine litter – along with balloons and plastic bags – to pose the greatest entanglement risk to marine wildlife such as seabirds, sea turtles and some of our most iconic marine mammals such as whales and dolphins.
Working in partnership with decision makers and corporates is the key to successfully and effectively addressing the problem of ghost gear. We are following up with a number of other governments, corporates and other partners worldwide to firm up commitments on how they can help.
By: Ingrid Giskes, Global head of Sea Change