Seafood firms urged to tackle 'ghost gear' which kills marine life

Leading seafood companies need to do more to stop lost fishing nets killing huge numbers of fish and marine animals each year, campaigners said.

A report from World Animal Protection said an estimated 5% to 30% of the decline in some fish stocks can be attributed to abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear, which can take up to 600 years to decompose.

The "ghost gear" also kills marine species such as whales, dolphins, seals and turtles.

Around 70% by weight of larger sized plastic waste in the oceans is fishing related, World Animal Protection said.

shing-related debris makes up 70% of the larger plastic waste in the oceans (World Animal Protection/Rachel Ceretto/PA)
Fishing-related debris makes up 70% of the larger plastic waste in the oceans (World Animal Protection/Rachel Ceretto/PA)

In a ranking of the world's 15 biggest seafood companies on how they are dealing with the issue, none make the top grade for best practice, or the second grade for putting responsible management and handling of their fishing gear at the heart of their business.

Leading the way on the issue are Young's Seafood, John West owner Thai Union and tuna company Tri Marine, World Animal Protection said, but warned all companies needed to do more.

Steve McIvor, chief executive of World Animal Protection, said: "Fishing gear is designed to catch and kill, and when it is left in the ocean it is the most harmful form of marine debris for animals.

"It's heartbreaking 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.

"We hope to see the companies at the bottom of the ranking working hard to improve and rise in the ranking in future years.

"These companies must remember that consumers demonstrate they care about the welfare of animals when they are deciding what brands to put in the shopping baskets."

He called for companies to join the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, an alliance founded by World Animal Protection in 2015, to help cut the amount of fishing gear being lost in the oceans.

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