American Oceans

Ghost Gear and Ghost Equipment in the Ocean: A Growing Threat to Marine Life

Ghost gear and ghost equipment in the ocean are a growing concern for marine life and the environment.

a floating patch of ghost gear

Ghost gear refers to any fishing equipment that has been lost, abandoned, or discarded in the ocean, including nets, traps, and lines.

These items can continue to trap and kill marine life for years, causing harm to both the animals and the ecosystem.

Read on below to learn about ghost gear and what’s being done to help remedy this growing environmental issue.

Key Takeaways

  • Ghost gear and ghost equipment in the ocean pose a significant threat to marine life and the environment.
  • Ghost gear is a form of marine pollution that can cause harm to fish, sea turtles, marine mammals, and birds, as well as damage to important marine habitats.
  • Ghost gear can come from a variety of sources, including fishing boats, aquaculture operations, and recreational fishing, and can be lost due to weather conditions, equipment failure, or human error. Initiatives and solutions are being developed to address this growing problem.

Understanding Ghost Gear and Ghost Equipment

a fish caught in ghost equipment

Ghost gear and ghost equipment are terms used to describe abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear that continues to cause harm to marine life and the environment.

This gear can include nets, lines, traps, ropes, and longlines, and can be made of various materials such as plastic, metal, and synthetic fibers.

Ghost gear can be particularly harmful to marine life as it can continue to entangle and trap animals long after it has been abandoned. This can cause injury, suffocation, or even death, and can also disrupt entire ecosystems.

For example, ghost fishing gear can lead to the overfishing of certain species or the destruction of habitats.

To address the problem of ghost gear, it is important to understand its causes and effects. Some of the main factors contributing to ghost gear include poor fishing practices, inadequate disposal methods, and lack of enforcement of regulations.

In addition, the increasing demand for seafood has led to an increase in fishing activity, which in turn has led to an increase in ghost gear.

There are several approaches that can be taken to mitigate the impact of ghost gear. One approach is to improve fishing practices and equipment design to reduce the amount of gear lost or abandoned.

Another approach is to implement better disposal methods, such as recycling or repurposing, to reduce the amount of gear that ends up in the ocean. Additionally, efforts can be made to increase enforcement of regulations and to raise awareness among fishermen and the general public about the importance of responsible fishing practices.

Sources and Causes of Ghost Gear

a diver picking up ghost gear from the water

Ghost gear refers to any fishing equipment that has been lost, abandoned, or discarded in the ocean. This gear can cause significant damage to marine life and the environment. There are several sources and causes of ghost gear, including:

  • Fishing industry: The fishing industry is a major source of ghost gear, as fishing vessels can lose or abandon gear due to equipment failure, conflict, or severe weather conditions. Ghost gear can also be intentionally discarded by fishers who are seeking to avoid the cost of disposing of old or damaged gear.

  • Tides and currents: Tides and currents can cause ghost gear to become lost or abandoned. Strong currents can cause fishing gear to become entangled and lost, while tides can wash gear ashore and leave it stranded.

  • Intentional discard: Some fishers intentionally discard gear in the ocean, either to avoid the cost of disposing of it or to reduce the weight of their vessel. This can result in significant amounts of ghost gear in the ocean.

  • Severe weather: Extreme weather conditions, such as hurricanes or typhoons, can cause fishing gear to become lost or abandoned in the ocean. This can result in a significant amount of ghost gear being released into the ocean.

  • Conflict: Conflict between fishers or between fishers and other ocean users can result in gear being lost or abandoned in the ocean. This can be particularly common in areas where there are competing interests for ocean resources.

Ghost gear can cause significant damage to marine life and the environment. It can become entangled with marine mammals, reptiles, and elasmobranchs, and can result in injury or death.

Ghost gear can also damage sensitive marine habitats, such as coral reefs and seagrass beds.

Efforts are underway to reduce the amount of ghost gear in the ocean, including the development of more effective tools for recovering lost gear.

Organizations such as the Global Ghost Gear Initiative are working to raise awareness of the issue and promote sustainable solutions at scale.

Impact of Ghost Gear on Marine Life

ghot equipment tangles in a coral reef

Ghost gear, or derelict fishing gear, is a major problem affecting marine life in oceans around the world.

Ghost gear includes any fishing equipment that has been lost, abandoned, or discarded in the ocean, including nets, traps, and lines.

This gear can continue to entangle, trap, and kill marine animals for years, causing harm to wildlife, fish stocks, and entire marine ecosystems.

Entanglement and Trapping

One of the most significant impacts of ghost gear on marine life is entanglement and trapping.

Ghost nets, lines, and other equipment can float in the ocean for years, continuing to capture and entangle marine animals such as sea turtles, sharks, and whales.

These animals can become trapped in the gear, causing injury, suffocation, or drowning. Entangled animals can also become easy prey for predators, leading to a further decline in their populations.

Ghost Fishing

Ghost fishing occurs when lost or abandoned fishing gear continues to capture and kill marine animals.

This can have a significant impact on fish stocks, as well as other marine life. Crustaceans, such as crabs, can also become trapped in ghost gear, leading to a decline in their populations.

Habitat Destruction

Ghost gear can also cause habitat destruction, particularly in coral reef ecosystems. Ghost nets and lines can become entangled in coral, damaging and destroying the reef.

This can have a cascading effect on the entire ecosystem, as coral reefs are home to a diverse range of marine life, including fish, crustaceans, and other animals.

Ghost Gear as a Form of Pollution

a triggerfish caught in a ghost gear net

Ghost gear refers to fishing equipment that has been lost, abandoned, or discarded in the ocean. It includes nets, lines, traps, and pots, among others.

These items can continue to trap and kill marine wildlife, earning the moniker “ghost gear.” It is estimated that ghost gear accounts for 10% of all marine debris, making it a significant contributor to ocean pollution.

Ghost gear is particularly dangerous because it can continue to capture marine wildlife long after it has been lost or discarded.

For example, nets can continue to drift in the ocean for years, trapping and killing marine animals such as fish, turtles, and whales. This can lead to a decline in population and even extinction of certain species.

Plastic is a significant component of ghost gear, as many fishing nets and lines are made of synthetic materials. This means that ghost gear also contributes to plastic pollution in the ocean.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive collection of marine debris in the Pacific Ocean, is estimated to contain a significant amount of ghost gear.

Efforts are being made to address the issue of ghost gear. Some organizations are working to remove ghost gear from the ocean, while others are developing new technologies to prevent gear loss in the first place.

Additionally, some countries have implemented regulations to require fishing vessels to report lost gear and to impose fines for gear that is left in the ocean.

Socioeconomic Impact of Ghost Gear

abandoned fihing gear on the seafloor

Ghost gear has a significant socioeconomic impact on communities, fisheries, and fisheries management.

The loss of fishing equipment due to abandonment, loss, or damage is a significant economic loss for fishers, as well as a threat to the seafood supply chain. The impact of ghost gear on navigation is also a significant concern for shipping and boating industries.

Communities that rely on fishing as a primary source of income are particularly vulnerable to the effects of ghost gear.

The loss of fishing equipment can lead to a decrease in catch and income for fishers, which can have a ripple effect on the local economy. In addition, ghost gear can impact the safety of fishing communities, as abandoned nets and lines can pose a risk to boats and divers.

The impact of ghost gear on fisheries management is also a concern. The loss of fishing equipment can lead to overfishing, as fishers may be forced to use less selective methods to catch fish.

This can lead to a decline in fish populations and a negative impact on the long-term sustainability of fisheries.

In addition to the impact on fishers and communities, ghost gear can also have a significant impact on the seafood supply chain.

Abandoned nets and lines can continue to catch fish, which can lead to a decrease in the quality of seafood and an increase in the amount of bycatch.

Initiatives and Solutions to Address Ghost Gear

a floating patch of ghost equipment

The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) is a multi-stakeholder organization that was established in 2015 to address the issue of ghost gear in the ocean.

The GGGI aims to create a global binding treaty that will help prevent and reduce the amount of ghost gear in the ocean.

The organization has created tools and guidelines to help prevent ghost gear from being lost in the first place and to recover it when it is lost.

The GGGI also works with governments, non-governmental organizations, academia, and industry to promote sustainability and recycling of fishing gear.

Government Policies and Regulations

Many governments have implemented policies and regulations to address the issue of ghost gear.

For example, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has implemented regulations that require commercial fishing vessels to report lost or discarded fishing gear.

The United Nations has also adopted resolutions to address ghost gear, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction.

Best Practices in Fishing Industry

The fishing industry has also implemented best practices to prevent and reduce the amount of ghost gear in the ocean.

For example, industrial fishing companies have begun using biodegradable fishing gear that breaks down naturally in the ocean. The industry has also implemented programs to recover lost or discarded fishing gear and to recycle it into new products.

Recycling and Disposal of Fishing Gear

Recycling and disposal facilities for fishing gear have also been established to prevent ghost gear from entering the ocean.

These facilities collect discarded fishing gear and recycle it into new products, such as clothing, carpet, and furniture. Some facilities also dispose of fishing gear in a responsible manner to prevent it from entering the ocean.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some solutions to ghost fishing?

There are several solutions to ghost fishing. One of the most effective solutions is to retrieve lost or abandoned fishing gear from the ocean.

This can be done by using specialized equipment such as “creepers,” which are towed behind fishing boats.

Another solution is to use biodegradable fishing gear, which will break down over time and not harm marine life. Additionally, education and awareness campaigns can help reduce the amount of discarded fishing gear in the ocean.

What is the Ghost Gear Initiative?

The Ghost Gear Initiative is a global organization that works to reduce the amount of lost or abandoned fishing gear in the ocean.

The organization works with governments, NGOs, and industry stakeholders to develop and implement strategies to prevent ghost fishing. The Ghost Gear Initiative also conducts research and raises awareness about the issue of ghost gear.

How much fishing gear is discarded or lost in the ocean annually?

It is estimated that between 600,000 and 800,000 tons of fishing gear are lost or discarded in the ocean each year.

This gear can continue to capture and kill marine life for years, contributing to the decline of fish populations and other marine species.

What are some examples of ghost gear?

Ghost gear can take many forms, including fishing nets, traps, and lines. Some examples of ghost gear include abandoned lobster traps, lost fishing nets, and discarded longlines.

How does ghost gear impact the deep sea?

Ghost gear can have a significant impact on deep sea ecosystems. It can continue to capture and kill marine life, including deep sea fish, for years. Ghost gear can also damage sensitive deep sea habitats, such as coral reefs and seamounts.

Why is the cleanup of ghost gear important for the ocean?

The cleanup of ghost gear is important for the health of the ocean. Ghost gear can continue to capture and kill marine life for years, contributing to the decline of fish populations and other marine species.

Additionally, ghost gear can damage sensitive marine habitats, such as coral reefs and seamounts. By removing ghost gear from the ocean, we can help protect marine life and preserve the health of the ocean.

Add comment