Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

'Zombie in the Water’: New Greenpeace Report Warns of Deadly Ghost Fishing Gear

Oceans
'Zombie in the Water’: New Greenpeace Report Warns of Deadly Ghost Fishing Gear
Ghost nests continue fishing long after they have been abandoned. Josephine Jullian / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A lot of the discussion around ocean plastic pollution focuses on consumer items like bottles, bags and straws. But a new Greenpeace report zeroes in on a different plastic threat: lost or abandoned fishing gear.

Discarded plastic fishing equipment, dubbed "ghost gear," is especially dangerous to marine life because it was designed to trap and kill it.


"(Ghost gear) is like a zombie in the water," Greenpeace marine biologist and oceans expert Thilo Maack told AFP. "Nobody takes out the catch, but it's still catching."

The report found that there is an alarming amount of this deadly plastic gear in the oceans. Around 640,000 tonnes of it enter the world's oceans every year, around the same weight as more than 50 thousand double decker buses.

While fishing gear represents 10 percent of ocean plastic overall, it makes up a much larger proportion of large plastic pollution. In some areas, it contributes the "vast majority of plastic rubbish."

  • It makes up around 70 percent of plastics more than 20 centimeters (approximately 8 inches) large floating on the ocean's surface; buoys alone account for 58 percent.
  • Fishing nets make up 86 percent of the large plastics in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
  • Fishing equipment makes up more than 85 percent of the plastic pollution on sea mounts, ocean ridges and the sea floor.
  • Fishing industry debris comprised 60 percent of six tonnes of garbage collected from the remote Henderson Island in the Pacific Ocean.

This is a major problem for marine life. A single ghost fishing net killed around 300 sea turtles in Mexican waters in 2018. And every year, ghost gear kills more than 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals and turtles, UK-based charity World Animal Protection told AFP.

"It's a huge problem because as they are initially set to trap and kill marine wildlife, they will do that for as long as they are in the oceans," Greenpeace Africa's campaigner Bukelwa Nzimande, 29, told AFP.

Ghost gear spreads for a variety of reasons, but mostly because of overcrowded fisheries, overfishing, and illegal or unregulated fishing, the report found. There is also no legal framework currently in operation to protect marine life in international waters.

Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner Louisa Casson spoke to the scope of the problem, according to The Guardian:

"Ghost gear is a major source of ocean plastic pollution and it affects marine life in the UK as much as anywhere else.

"The UK's waters do not exist in a vacuum as oceans have no borders. The world's governments must take action to protect our global oceans, and hold the under-regulated fishing industry to account for its dangerous waste. This should start with a strong global ocean treaty being agreed at the United Nations next year."

The ocean treaty is one of three recommendations Greenpeace issued to address the problem.

The Global Ocean Treaty, which is supposed to be agreed upon by 2020, would allow governments to create ocean sanctuaries in at least 30 percent of international waters by 2030.

Greenpeace also called for following the best practices suggested by the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and fighting marine pollution through global and regional organizations.

EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER / E+ / Getty Images

By Brett Wilkins

As world leaders prepare for this November's United Nations Climate Conference in Scotland, a new report from the Cambridge Sustainability Commission reveals that the world's wealthiest 5% were responsible for well over a third of all global emissions growth between 1990 and 2015.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The saguaro cactus extracts carbon from the atmosphere. Thomas Roche / Getty Images

By Paul Brown

It may come as a surprise to realize that a plant struggling for survival in a harsh environment is also doing its bit to save the planet from the threats of the rapidly changing climate. But that's what Mexico's cactuses are managing to do.

Read More Show Less
Trending
Lower Granite Dam is obstructing salmon along the Snake River in Washington. Greg Vaughn / VW PICS / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Climate change, activities that contribute to it, and dams pose grave threats to America's rivers, according to American Rivers.

Read More Show Less
Radiation-contaminated water tanks and damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Feb. 25, 2016 in Okuma, Japan. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Japan will release radioactive wastewater from the failed Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, the government announced on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier, aka the doomsday glacier, is seen here in 2014. NASA / Wikimedia Commons / CC0

Scientists have maneuvered an underwater robot beneath Antarctica's "doomsday glacier" for the first time, and the resulting data is not reassuring.

Read More Show Less