The world’s biggest navies must help stop vessels fishing illegally, and save animals - World Animal Protection - Sea Change

The world’s biggest navies must help stop vessels fishing illegally, and save animals


We know boats fishing illegally often lose or dump nets and other equipment – and it’s killing sea animals. Now it’s time for the world’s navies to become part of the solution

We’re urging the world’s 10 most powerful navies to increase patrols to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. There’s a clear link between IUU fishing vessels and lost or abandoned equipment, known as 'ghost gear'. This gear entangles and kills marine wildlife, such as whales, dolphins, seals and turtles. 

That’s why our CEO, Steve McIvor, has written to the biggest navies in the world, calling on them to help fight the problem of lost and abandoned fishing equipment. Also known as ‘ghost gear’, it can include fishing nets, lines, and traps.  


Discarding the evidence of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is a common way of avoiding capture

How is ghost gear harming animals? 

Every year, more than 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals and turtles get caught in ghost gear. 

It destroys habitats and kills marine animals slowly. 

A staggering 640,000 tonnes of ghost gear is left in our oceans each year and it can take up to 600 years to decompose.

How illegal fishing makes the ghost gear problem worse 

Boats are more likely to dump fishing gear if their fishing activity is illegal. They often throw away illegal fishing equipment into the ocean to avoid being denied entry to ports.  

Both the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture organisation of the United Nations (FAO) recognise the link between illegal fishing boats and ghost gear. Under the cover of darkness, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing can take place without detection, but the risks are serious.

Bad for communities too  

Illegal and unregulated fishing also affects people all over the world. Communities are harmed as efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks are threatened whilst food security is put at risk. It causes both short and long-term social and economic losses for affected countries. 

To help tackle the ghost gear problem, we set up the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) which brings together governments, private-sector companies and non-governmental organisations. We want to clear our oceans of ghost gear and stop more going in. And we want to do this in a sustainable way. 

Now it’s time for the most powerful navies in the world to play their part in helping to stop illegal fishing boats. We’re urging them to be part of the solution, and help end the awful effects of ghost gear. 

Learn more about illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Footage and photography: Jim Wickens for World Animal Protection

“It is vital you help to eliminate this menace from the oceans, our CEO Steve McIvor

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