As 33ft sperm whale trapped in fishing net dies, we urge more action to protect marine animals

16 March 2017

A sperm whale sadly died yesterday, having been trapped in fishing nets off the coast of China. We’re calling for more proactive action to protect sea life against abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear, otherwise known as ‘ghost gear’

It is unclear whether the incident was caused by active fishing gear or lost or abandoned ghost gear. But we believe this case highlights the threat to marine wildlife from human activity.

Our work

We launched the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) in 2015. It is an alliance of governments, industry representatives, and non-governmental organisations with a shared commitment to tackle the problem.

Members include Young’s Seafood, the Marine Conservation Society, supermarket giant Sainsbury’s, Surfers Against Sewage and Austral Fisheries.

Another tragedy

The global head of our 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."

Ingrid explained how whales can become entangled in large, heavy fishing nets: "These floating death traps can drag them for miles, restricting their movement and ultimately exhausting them until they drown."

One of the greatest threats to marine animals

Following a succession of incidents where marine life has been trapped in fishing gear across the world, Ingrid said 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."

Urgent preventative action is needed. 

Working together to make change

We’re calling on more organisations to support the GGGI. 

The GGGI gathers 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.

Ingrid added: "We recognise 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."

Learn more about Sea Change and the GGGI now.

*Please note: Image shows a whale entangled in ghost gear off the coast of California for demonstrative purposes, and is not the sperm whale in China.

"We estimate that ghost gear kills around 136,000 seals, sea lions and large whales every year."

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