US government officially joins the Global Ghost Gear Initiative
The United States has become the 16th country to join the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), a multi-stakeholder consortium dedicated to tackling the problem of ghost fishing gear around the world.
On Thursday, 16 July, the U.S. government announced its induction into the alliance, which is comprised of more than 100 member organizations, including 15 other national government and 13 U.S. seafood companies.
GGGI Director Ingrid Giskes said the development marks a watershed moment for the consortium and the world’s fisheries.
“This is an incredible milestone for the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, and we hope it creates a sea change for this issue,” Giskes said in a press release. “As awareness of the ghost gear threat has grown, we’ve been heartened to see key fishing nations take action. We have welcomed U.S. support and leadership on the issue to date, and we’re excited to have them onboard as a GGGI member as we expand our partnership to protect our ocean.”
“Addressing marine debris, including ghost gear, is a key administration priority. By signing this statement of support, the U.S. government joins more than eighty-five organizations and fifteen other countries in acknowledging the significant impact ghost gear has on marine ecosystems and human health and livelihoods,” the U.S. Department of State remarked in a statement.
The U.S. is “uniquely positioned to make a difference” where ghost gear is concerned, GGGI explained – the country possesses the world’s largest economy and is one of the top seven capture fishery producers globally, accounting for 6 percent of the planet’s total catch production and 19 percent of total seafood consumption.
Considered “the single deadliest form of marine debris to sea life,” ghost gear makes up 46-70 percent of all floating macroplastics in the ocean by weight, according to recent studies referenced by GGGI.
Many fisheries in the U.S. are impacted by ghost gear, GGGI said, including in New England, where fishers report losing 10-30 percent of their lobster traps, lines, and buoys each year. Meanwhile, an estimated 250,000 derelict crab traps are lost annually in the Gulf of Mexico, the alliance added.
The U.S. Department of State and GGGI first established ties in 2018, collaborating on a grant-funded project in the Caribbean aimed at incentivizing fisheries management best practices that include gear management protocols in an insurance product. The project also saw the nation and the consortium leading efforts “to develop innovative fishing gear and gear-tracking technologies to prevent ghost gear from occurring while facilitating gear recovery.”
NOAA has been a part of GGGI since 2016 and has helped “shape the initiative’s trajectory by serving on its steering group for two consecutive years,” the consortium explained. NOAA Marine Debris Program Director Nancy Wallace said the agency anticipates continued, fruitful collaboration with the initiative in the coming years.
“NOAA’s Marine Debris Program has worked closely with the partnership over the past several years and we recognize its work and diverse membership as critical to addressing the global problem of ghost gear," Wallace said. “We look forward to continued partnership with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and its many stakeholder entities in the years ahead.”
Launched in 2015, GGGI recently became a part the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program in 2019. As a member of the alliance, “the U.S. will continue to support the mission areas of the GGGI, including implementing best practices for the marking, tracking and reporting of fishing gear; mapping gear hotspot areas; developing methods and markets for the recycling of end-of-life gear; and retrieving fishing gear in sensitive habitats and key fishing grounds,” GGGI stated in its press release.
Photo courtesy of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative