Turning paper promises into on the ground action

Turning paper promises into on the ground action


It’s sometimes hard to imagine how decisions made at the United Nations can impact on our daily lives. However, earlier this month I witnessed first hand that countries are looking for ways to turn policy commitments into action, and are open to our support in doing so.

Last month, World Animal Protection hosted a side event for World Oceans Day, together with the Permanent Missions of Sweden, Tonga, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Fiji and Palau. The presentations highlighted that about 640,000 tons of lost fishing gear enters our oceans each year causing the entanglement of millions of animals who drown within minutes or suffer in pain for months or even years. Abandoned or lost fishing gear, also called ‘ghost gear’, can range from fishing hooks to lobster pots to giant fishing nets. When shown images of the scale of ghost gear entanglement, no country or UN delegate needed further convincing of the seriousness of this issue!

It was clear that United Nations’ member states want to take tangible actions to tackle the issue of ghost fishing gear.  Country representatives at the event acknowledged that they had indeed adopted 11 consecutive General Assembly resolutions on Sustainable Fisheries urging for imminent action on ghost fishing gear.  They also stressed that in 2015, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, countries agreed that oceans and seas are central to sustainable development and committed to contribute to the United Nation’s goal of substantially reducing marine litter by 2025.

Many countries expressed their support for our Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), the cross-sectoral multi-stakeholder alliance founded by World Animal Protection, which functions as a vehicle to promote a collaborative approach between governments, the seafood industry, fishermen and civil society to tackle the issue of ghost gear through its active working groups. Swedish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation and Climate, Ms. Isabella Lövin, said that “Multi-stakeholder platforms are needed to deal with [the issue of ghost fishing gear] at a global level and a wide range of stakeholders are needed to tackle this problem. The GGGI is undoubtedly an initiative worth supporting.”

Following this expression of support, we are looking forward to more countries formally joining the GGGI, support one of our solutions projects, help to further collate compelling evidence, and support us at the upcoming meeting of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in July. At COFI, we will be calling on countries to prioritise coordinated action on ghost gear, as well as to support the proposal to develop ‘global gear marking guidelines’ enabling identification of the ownership and location of fishing gear to encourage better management practices, assist with gear retrieval and help to prevent loss of fishing gear.

Organising the event and speaking to UN delegates highlighted how World Animal Protection can help. Through the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, we can channel the political will of countries and help turn promises on paper into action on the ground, can hold countries accountable, support and inspire them; and ultimately bring us closer to cleaner oceans that are safe for marine animals.

By: Ingrid Giskes, Project Manager for World Animal Proteciton

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