Fishing Gear is Killing Hundreds and Thousands of Whales, Seals and Turtles

640,000 tonnes of ‘ghost gear’ litters our oceans every year.

Marine life in Australia and New Zealand is under threat from tonnes of fishing gear or ‘ghost gear’ left in our oceans every year. Large nets, wire and traps are entangling our marine life leaving them to die a long and painful death. WDC explain to the ABC:

Rope and netting often cause cuts and abrasions to the skin, tightening as the animal struggles and cutting deeper into the flesh. In extreme cases, fins and tail flukes can be totally or partially amputated by the tightening nets. Bodies of bycaught dolphins are commonly recorded as having broken teeth, beaks or jaws and extreme internal injuries.

The conservation group, World Animal Protection is initiating a response team to clear our oceans of the deadly entrapments with the help of the Samoan, Tuvalu and New Zealand governments. Without clearing, dangerous ‘ghost gear’ will remain in our oceans for upwards of 600 years.

Image: Shutterstock

The conservation group attended the UN’s Ocean Conference in New York in an attempt to involve countries such as Australia to take part in the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) – a plan to rid our oceans of fishing equipment left in our oceans. Group member Ingrid Giskes who attended the conference has high hopes:

I think this conference is one of the first UN conferences that is not just going to be all about talk, but really about action, there is a registry online attached to the conference, which is called a register of voluntary commitment, which is basically where countries can pledge action on the issue of ocean health including marine litter.

The Australian government co-sponsored the group’s side event, which they were hoping would push more Australian involvement in the project.

Image: infographic from Global Ghost Gear Initiative

Semisis Tauelangi Fakahau, Tonga’s minister for Agriculture and Food, Forestry and Fisheries has been a committed supporter of the initiative for years. He, like the rest of Tonga are saddened by the effect ‘ghost gear’ is having on marine life:

Tongans are people of the ocean and the seas. The oceans, our 'moana' is our heritage.

Though the process of removing all discarded fishing equipment from our oceans seems like a daunting task, initiatives such as the GGGI, are a step in the right direction. If the seafood supply chain and its stakeholders join initiatives like GGGI, mitigation of ‘ghost gear’ will be re-enforced by strict procedure. Implementation of these procedures will also strive to lessen the inhumane treatment of marine animals such as the brutal act of shark finning.

Header: Shutterstock

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