Ghost fishing waste is the items leftover from the fishing industry, from hooks to fishing line to trawling nets. If you eat fish, look for brands certified by Marine Conservation Society as free from by-catch (this means that methods are not used that also catch dolphins, seals, whales, sharks and sea turtles). Monofilament fishing line is also deadly as never breaks down. It’s thought that 10% of all plastic in our seas is not from nets, lines and ropes which also affects endangered marine habitats like coral reefs.
If you’re an angler, buy Monomaster (a nifty little invention from The Netherlands) which unlike reycling bins that encourage nesting birds), keeps line safely stored.
Each year, an estimated 640,000 tons of fishing waste is discarded in seas worldwide. This leads to millions of marine creatures being trapped and killed. The main areas of concern are:
- The North Sea is seriously over-fished, so nets are often snagged to trap marine wildlife in England, Germany and Holland.
- The Mediterranean Sea contains 30% of unique species, but again over-fishing is causing havoc. The most polluted sea in Europe now has many creatures at risk including in Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Lebanon. The Northern Adriatic Sea is one of the most over-fished basins with bottlenose dolphins in particular at risk around Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.
- The Red Sea contains coral reefs which are home to endangered species, and warming waters from climate change. The coastal town of Dahab is a hub for marine litter including ghost fishing waste, single-use fabric, fabrics and cigarette filters.
It’s estimated that each year, abandoned into the sea are:
- 78,000 square km of purse seine nets and gillnets
- 215 sq square km of bottom trawl nets
- 740,000 km of main long lones
- 15.5 million km of branch lines
- 13 billion longline hooks
- 25 million traps & pots
should we buy recycled fishing waste items?
It’s very fashionable now to buy items made from recycled plastic waste (whether that’s fishing waste or plastic bottles). In theory it’s a good way to use up the waste, but of course it’s not solving the issue at hand. Buying items made from things that won’t go back in the sea (or washing machine) is good. Examples are:
The issue is for items like swimwear, flops and beach towels (microplastics just go back to sea), sunglasses (okay if you’re not leaning over a boat where they could drop in) and clothing (if used, launder with a microplastic catcher and just rinse swimming costumes if you don’t need to wash them, for less chance of release).
a kind photographer’s photo that made a difference
The turtle was immediately rescued after underwater photographer Jordi Chias took this photo while diving, as part of his award-winning collection ‘Man Against the Sea’. He had joined friends sailing from Barcelone to Mallorca, to photograph whales and dolphins. Around 50 miles out from the Barcelona coast, they saw a loggerhead turtle trapped in an abandoned fishing net.
Badly knotted up for likely days, Jordas (still in his wetsuit) noticed the creature had extended his neck up to breathe. He quickly took over 25 photos (to raise awareness) then they lifted the turtle on board and spent 20 minutes cutting it free. It thankfully swam away, and the image (a bit like the sea turtle with the plastic straw stuck up his nose) has hopefully changed minds and hearts.