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Abandoned and Lost Fishing Gear Pollutes the Seas

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Abandoned and lost fishing gear such as traps, crab pots and nets litter the ocean floor in coastal areas worldwide, continuing to attract, entrap and kill fish and other marine life. The Associated Press reports that global nonprofits, governments and companies are engaged in efforts to retrieve and recycle as many of the items as possible to protect the environment, save marine life and reduce hazards to marine navigation.

A 2009 United Nations report estimated there are 640,000 tons of discarded fishing nets deep below the ocean surface worldwide. Recommended solutions include degradable panels on traps that break down and allow trapped marine life to escape. International agreements prohibit dumping fishing equipment at sea; yet in England, small vessels can amass landfill charges of roughly $700 per year, giving them an incentive to ditch broken gear.

Pascal van Erp, a Dutch diver alarmed by the amount of equipment he’s encountered, founded the Ghost Fishing Foundation to tackle the issue. He says, “It’s found in all seas, oceans and inland waters at all depths, along the beach and under the sand. I don’t think the problem can be resolved completely, but we can keep it from getting worse by showing the problem to the public and the authorities.” Industry experts and scientists estimate that commercial fishermen annually lose about 10 percent of their traps due to bad weather.


This article appears in the February 2017 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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