Ghost Nets T-Shirt
Ghost nets are commercial fishing nets that have been lost, abandoned, or discarded at sea. Every year they are responsible for trapping and killing millions of marine animals including sharks, rays, bony fish, turtles, dolphins, whales, crustaceans, and birds. It is the most harmful form of marine debris.
In September 2015, the World Animal Protection created the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), the world’s largest cross-sectoral alliance, to give a unique and stronger voice to the cause.
There are many reasons why fishing gear can be lost or abandoned. These include severe weather, obstacles beneath the surface, conflict with other gear and interaction with other vessels. Unfortunately there is also intentional discard of worn-out nets because it is often the easiest way to get rid of them.
Ghost nets drift with ocean currents for years, or even decades. As they travel huge distances, they continuing to catch and kill marine animals in a process called “ghost fishing”.
In addition, they cause further damage by entangling live coral, smothering reefs and introducing parasites and invasive species into reef environments.
Due to the durability of modern fishing nets, this circle of devastation can continue for decades. Those abandoned fishing lines and nets that do breakdown never go away; they just become smaller pieces of plastic. Marine animals mistake this microplastic for food and eat it, which can harm internal organs, keep them from eating, and expose them to toxic chemicals.
Possible solutions: alternative materials, collection and recycling
Unlike synthetic fishing nets, biodegradable fishing nets decompose naturally under water after a certain period of time. Coconut fibre fishing nets are commercially made and are hence a practical solution that can be taken by fishermen.
Technology systems, for marking and tracking fishing gear, including GPS tracking, are being trialled to promote greater accountability and transparency.
Net amnesty schemes create incentives for the collection and responsible disposal of end of life fishing gear. These schemes address the root cause for many net abandonments, which is the financial cost of their disposal.
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