Derelict fishing gear a growing concern
A report published on Wednesday by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Environment Program (UNEP) said abandoned fishing gear represents about 10 percent, or 640,000 metric tons of all marine litter.
According to the report, derelict fishing gear damages the seafloor and vessels and causes fish and other marine life, such as turtles and birds, to get tangled in the nets. The problem is worsening, said the report, due to the use of highly durable fishing gear made of long-lasting synthetic materials.
However, most fishing gear is not deliberately discarded but is lost in storms or ocean currents. Gillnets, pots and traps are most likely to "ghost fish," while longlines are most likely to ensnare marine life and trawls are most likely to harm the seafloor.
"The amount of fishing gear remaining in the marine environment will continue to accumulate and the impacts on marine ecosystems will continue to get worse if the international community doesn't take effective steps to deal with the problem of marine debris as a whole," said Ichiro Nomura, FAO's assistant director-general for fisheries and aquaculture. "Strategies for addressing the problem must occur on multiple fronts, including prevention, mitigation and curative measures."
According to the report, some 8 million items of marine litter enter the oceans daily.
"There are many 'ghosts in the marine environment machine' from overfishing and acidification linked with greenhouse gases to the rise in de-oxygenated 'dead zones' as a result of runoff and land-based source of pollution," said Achim Steiner, the UN's under-secretary general and UNEP's executive director. "Abandoned and lost fishing [gear] is part of this suite of challenges that must be urgently addressed collectively if the productivity of our oceans and seas is to be maintained for this and future generations."