The deadliest catch: World’s biggest seafood companies need to address lost fishing gear

Press release

A new report released today by World Animal Protection has found that the world’s 15 biggest seafood companies need to do more to stop their lost fishing nets killing millions of fish every year.

An estimated 5 to 30% of the decline in some fish stocks can be attributed to ‘ghost gear’- abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), which can take up to 600 years to decompose.

The 15 seafood companies in the report [title] are ranked from 1 to 5 on their ability to address the problem of ghost gear; with tier 1 being the best and tier 5 the worst.

Not one of the world’s biggest seafood companies achieved tier 1 status by leading the way with best practice, or tier 2 status by making responsible management and handling of their fishing gear integral to their business strategy.

Overall Lost Gear Ranking

Tier 1 – Leader / setting best practice

Tier 2 – Achiever / integral to business strategy

Tier 3 – Improver / established, but work to be done

Thai Union, TriMarine, Young’s Seafood

Tier 4 – Engaged / on the agenda, but limited evidence of implementation

Bumble Bee Foods, Dongwon (StarKist)

Tier 5 – Not engaged / no evidence that ALDFG is on the business agenda

Beaver Street Fisheries, Clearwater Seafoods, Cooke Seafood, East Coast Seafood Group, High Liner Foods, Maruha Nichiro, Nissui, Pacific Seafood Group, Pescanova, Samherji

Only three of the 15 companies achieved “improver” tier 3 status, as they have established policies for the management and handling of their fishing gear:

  • Young’s Seafood - the British producer and distributor of frozen, fresh, and chilled seafood, supplying approximately 40% of all the fish eaten in the United Kingdom every year
  • Thai Union, which has a global portfolio of popular brands including John West and Chicken of the Sea
  • TriMarine which supplies tuna and tuna supply-related services to leading tuna brands worldwide.
  • Bumble Bee Seafoods, North America’s largest branded shelf-stable seafood company, who sell canned and pouched tuna, salmon, sardines and specialty seafood, is a tier 4 company, as is Dongwon, South Korea’s largest seafood company and owner of the StarKist tuna brand. These companies have responsible management of fishing gear on their agendas, but there is limited published evidence of them implementing changes.

The remaining 10 companies, including Canadian giant, High Liner Foods, whose retail branded products are sold throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico under the High Liner, Fisher Boy, Sea Cuisine and C. Wirthy labels, all sit at the bottom of the ranking in tier 5 and are not engaged or no evidence could be found that they are addressing the damage that lost or abandoned fishing gear can cause.

Worryingly, the report shows that 73% of assessed companies do not have a clear position on abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear or publicly acknowledge the issue.

  • The average company score was just 22%
  • Less than half of the companies effectively address marine litter, marine pollution or bycatch/entanglement
  • Just three companies – Young’s Seafood, TriMarine and Thai Union have established policies on lost and abandoned fishing gear
  • Only two companies, Bumble Bee and Clearwater Seafoods, publicly disclose that they have 100% verifiable traceability of their produces and oversight of supply chains
  • Only two of the companies, TriMarine and Young’s Seafood, are a participant of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.

The prevention of ghost gear is vital, as not only does it deplete fish stocks, it is also killing our marine life. Every year more than one hundred thousand whales, dolphins, seals and turtles become entangled in ghost gear. Lost gear is four times more likely to trap and kill marine animals than all other forms of marine debris combined. In addition, it is also contributing to the ocean’s plastic problem with more that 70% of macroplastics by weight being fishing related.

Steve McIvor, CEO of World Animal Protection, said:

“Fishing gear is designed to catch and kill, and when it is left in the ocean it is the most harmful form of marine debris for animals.

“It’s heart-breaking to know that animals caught in this incredibly durable gear can suffer from debilitating wounds or suffocate or starve to death over a number of months.

 “We hope to see the companies at the bottom of the ranking working hard to improve and rise in the ranking in future years. These companies must remember that consumers demonstrate they care about the welfare of animals when they are deciding what brands to put in the shopping baskets. Joining the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) is an important first step they can take.”

The GGGI is an alliance founded by World Animal Protection in 2015, dedicated to tackling the problem of ghost fishing gear at a global scale. The GGGI’s strength lies in the diversity of its participants including the fishing industry, the private sector, academia, governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. Every participant has a critical role to play to mitigate ghost gear locally, regionally and globally.

The report clearly demonstrates that companies who join the GGGI perform better at addressing ghost gear in their supply chains as well as contributing to the delivery of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Through the expertise and knowledge of GGGI members, companies are able to contribute to significantly reducing ghost gear entering our oceans by 2025.

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