The deadliest catch: world’s biggest seafood companies can do more to address lost fishing gear

08 March 2018

When fishing gear is lost or abandoned, it turns our oceans into a sea life death-trap – but big companies can help stop animals suffering

Our new report shows that the world’s 15 biggest seafood companies can do more to protect sea animals, precious marine ecosystems, and global fish levels. 

Fishing’s plastic problem 

The problem of lost or abandoned fishing gear – known as ‘ghost gear’ – is getting worse. Marine animals are suffering. When animals like whales and seals get entangled or swallow pieces of plastic from ghost gear, it can lead to malnutrition, mutilation and cause a slow and painful death. 

Ghost gear is killing between an estimated 5 and 30% of fish in some areas. Often made out of plastic, ghost gear can persist in our oceans for up to 600 years

A seal caught in fishing gear lost or abandoned in the ocean 

Industry must do more 

The 15 seafood companies in our Ghosts beneath the waves report are ranked from one to five on their ability to address the problem of ghost gear.  

But not one of the world’s biggest seafood companies is making responsible handling of their fishing gear integral to their business strategy.  

However, some seafood companies have shown they are making some steps towards tackling the ghost gear problem.  

Young’s Seafood, Thai Union and Tri Marine all have responsible management of fishing gear on their agendas. But we would like to see more companies act now and become part of the solution.  

Worryingly, our Ghosts beneath the waves report shows that 80% of companies we assessed do not have a plan to act on abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear or do not publicly acknowledge the issue.  

  • The average company score was just 22% 
  • Fewer than half of the companies effectively address marine litter, marine pollution or bycatch/entanglement 
  • Just three companies – Young’s Seafood, Tri Marine 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, Tri Marine and Young’s Seafood, are a participant of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.   

Dolphins should be able to enjoy their natural habitat, free from ghost gear 

Shifting the tide 

The prevention of ghost gear is vital. Every year more than 100,000 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. It’s also contributing to the ocean’s plastic problem, as more than 70% of macroplastics by weight are fishing-related. 

Read the full report

Header image: Jordi Chias / naturepl.com

"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." - Our CEO Steve McIvor

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