Sperm whale

China whale death: experts urge more action to protect marine animals

Press release

Following the death of a sperm whale that had been trapped in fishing nets off the coast of China yesterday, World Animal Protection has issued a call for industry and governments to take more proactive action to address the issue of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear.

Global Head of World Animal Protection’s Sea Change campaign, Ingrid Giskes, said, “The sad story of an entangled 33ft whale off the coast in Shenzhen in China highlighted the potential risks to marine life.

She says: “Whales, if they become entangled in large heavy fishing nets can drag them for miles restricting their movement and ultimately exhausting them until they drown.

“Whether this gear was being actively fished or was ‘ghost’ fishing gear, it’s a positive sign that the local fishermen took a proactive approach to alert others to try and rescue this whale even though we would never recommend anyone entering the water with a distressed animal We’d love to see more collaboration between those out on the sea and professional rescue organisations, as well as initiatives providing long-term preventative solutions to managing fishing gear, as this would result in more animals potentially being saved.”

Following a litany of incidents where marine life has been trapped in fishing gear across the world, Giskes says it’s time for more proactive collaboration to protect marine life:

“Abandoned and lost fishing gear poses one of the greatest threats to marine animal welfare. We estimate that ghost gear kills around 136,000 seals, sea lions and large whales every year through entanglement and ingestion, with many more suffering devastating injuries.

“It also poses a serious problem for the health of our oceans and fisher safety, and is a contributor to a significant decline in fish stock levels in hotspot areas. Urgent preventative action is needed.

“We’re calling on organisations to support the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, which is a collaboration bringing the public, private and NGO sector together to drive real solutions.  The GGGI focuses on gathering information about the scale of the ghost gear problem globally, develops best practice guidelines and information for the fishing industry and seafood sector and works on the ground to implement sustainable solutions to challenges around fishing gear disposal and collection.

“We’d like to see governments recognize that action on ghost gear must be prioritized to achieve sustainable oceans and make a voluntary commitment at the UN Oceans Conference in New York in June to substantially reduce ghost gear as part of their actions to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14.

“We can’t afford to be complacent about protecting marine life. This is a reminder that we need preventative action and we need action quickly,” Giskes said.


Notes to editors 

About the Global Ghost Gear Initiative

To find a lasting solution to this problem, World Animal Protection launched the Global Ghost Gear Initiative - an alliance of governments, industry, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations – in 2015 with a shared commitment to tackle the problem of ghost fishing gear.

The initiative shares data, intelligence and resources to understand ghost gear abundance, causes, impacts and trends, as well as providing a platform to drive and develop new ways to tackle the ghost gear issue.

Members include Young’s Seafood, the Marine Conservation Society, supermarket giant Sainsbury’s, Surfers Against Sewage and Austral Fisheries. A full list of participants can be found here: http://www.ghostgear.org/participants

World Animal Protection can provide case studies on positive action being undertaken under this initiative. For examples visit: http://www.ghostgear.org/solutions/?lat=12.897489183755892&lng=0&zoom=2

Recent incidents

February 2016 -  humpback whale who was entangled in an illegal net off the coast of Mexico: http://www.care2.com/causes/rescuers-free-humpback-whale-from-an-illega…

April 2016 - distressed humpback whale that was entangled in crabbing gear off US Coast: http://www.ktvu.com/news/132297983-story

May 2016 -  humpback whale entangled in fishing gear of the United States coast: http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2016/0519/Foggy-the-whale-entangle…

July 2016 - Juvenile whale tangled in commercial fishing rope off Australia: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-15/whale-juvenile-saved-rope-kayak-d…