Ghost gear initiative meeting celebrates year of sea change for marine animals

27 October 2016

Leaders from the fishing industry, the private sector (including seafood and recycling companies), research and funding institutions, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations recently met in Miami, Florida to discuss ways to tackle ghost gear

Established by World Animal Protection last year, the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) is a cross-sectoral alliance of organisations committed to improving the health of marine ecosystems, protecting marine animals, and safeguarding human health and livelihoods.

The meeting provided an opportunity to celebrate successes over the past year in driving solutions to the problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear worldwide, as well as setting the agenda for 2017.

The GGGI has ambitious plans to present the Global Ghost Gear Initiative as the key platform for governments to deliver UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 14.1, which calls on governments to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds (including ghost fishing gear) by 2025.

Celebrating success

In the past 12 months the GGGI has delivered:

  • initial work on development of a data portal to monitor the growth of ghost gear and identify and record hotspots, as well as types of gear lost
  • a draft best practice framework on the management of fishing gear at the different stages of its life cycle to provide guidance to seafood companies, fishers, gear manufacturers and certification bodies on best practice measures for preventing ghost gear from entering our oceans
  • a range of ghost gear solution projects including a net recycling pilot in Scotland, a gear recovery and mapping project in Alaska, and a fully circular-economy ghost gear project in Pakistan is due to start by the end of the year.

Marking ghost gear so owners can be traced

The GGGI has also raised the profile of ghost gear as a global issue of note.

In June this year, Member States at the 32nd United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s biennial Committee on Fisheries (COFI) meeting supported the adoption of a Technical Consultation for the development of International Guidelines for the Marking of Fishing Gear.

Marking allows gear to be traced back to its source. This enables fishers to retrieve gear they have accidentally lost, dissuades them from deliberately abandoning it, and helps identify fishing activity happening illegally.

The FAO will next convene governments and other organizations to develop these guidelines so they can be adopted and implemented internationally.

Plans for the future

The Global Ghost Gear Initiative’s 2017 work will be driven by a newly elected steering committee which includes representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (U.S.), Young's Seafood (UK), Steveston Harbour Authority (Canada), MCB Seafoods (UK), and World Animal Protection.

Steve McIvor, World Animal Protection CEO, said: “Abandoned, lost and discarded nets, lines and traps are one of the biggest threats to our sea life. A staggering 640,000 tonnes of gear is left in our oceans each year. This gear traps, injures, mutilates and kills hundreds of thousands of whales, seals, turtles and birds annually.

"Through the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, we are helping our sea life by driving change with through political engagement as well as driving solutions with the ability to motivate, engage and have real-life impact alongside the business community."

Ingrid Giskes, GGGI Steering Group Member and Head of Sea Change at World Animal Protection, said: "The GGGI has delivered so much in just one year since its launch, and we are so proud of the huge achievements of our participants and of the global recognition we are beginning to receive. We are committed to continuing our integrated work to realize our ambitious goals."

Joel Baziuk, GGGI Steering Group member and Operations Supervisor for Steveston Harbour Authority said: "I’m really excited about what we’ve accomplished in the GGGI’s first year.

"I’m really looking forward to seeing the GGGI’s global impact. A lot of really great solutions are happening all over the world, and one of the GGGI’s aims is to make sure that these are catalyzed and replicated in other parts of the world."

Tom Barry, GGGI Steering Group Member and Cooperative Agreements Specialist at the NOAA Marine Debris Program, said: “The GGGI is unique because it brings together such a diverse group of stakeholders and sectors working together to solve the problem of ghost gear.

"I’m excited to see the GGGI grow and continue to elaborate on its mission and achieve its goals to hopefully get to a point where one day ghost gear is not an issue for the marine environment."

First of its kind

The Global Ghost Gear Initiative is the first initiative dedicated to tackling the problem of ghost fishing gear at a global scale. The initiative’s strength lies in the diversity of its participants including the fishing industry, the private sector, academia, governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations. Since its launch, the GGGI has doubled the number of its participants who have global presence.

Find out more about the work the GGGI does to protect sea life.

"The GGGI is unique because it brings together such a diverse group of stakeholders and sectors working together to solve the problem of ghost gear." - Tom Barry, GGGI Steering Group Member

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