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UN told all fishing nets must have ID tags

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Rome - World Animal Protection will today call on the member states of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to ensure all fishing nets are ID tagged by 2025 to reduce the numbers of marine animals being killed by lost fishing nets.

Every year more than one hundred thousand whales, dolphins, seals and turtles are caught in "ghost gear" - abandoned, lost and discarded fishing nets, lines and traps which can take up to 600 years to decompose. A staggering 640,000 tonnes, the equivalent of 52,000 London double decker buses, of ghost gear is left in our oceans each year. Some nets lost in the oceans are bigger than football pitches.

At present, there are no effective mechanisms to identify the owner of fishing gear when it is lost or abandoned, making it harder to hold companies responsible and identify illegal operations.

Fishing gear is designed to capture and kill and when lost it can cause immense suffering for marine animals that can get caught in this incredibly durable equipment. The animals suffer a prolonged and painful death, usually suffocating or starving to death. Seven out of ten (71%) entanglements involve plastic ghost gear.

If all commercial fishing nets were tagged, fishing vessels would be incentivised to do more to ensure nets are not lost and to recover those that are. Enforcement agencies would have the opportunity to trace and prosecute serial offenders. With various gear marking methods already available and new technologies on the horizon, a standardized global gear marking system is a viable solution to improve traceability in seafood supply chains and protect animals.

Physical tags, chemical marking, colour-coding, Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID), radio beacons and satellite buoys are just some of the tagging approaches available. With the advance of cost-effective electronics and computer technologies, advanced gear marking technologies must become an integral part of fisheries management in the near future.

Attending the 33rd Committee on Fisheries (COFI) session in Rome (9-13 July), Ingrid Giskes, Global Head of Sea Change at World Animal Protection, said: "Ghost gear poses the most danger to marine animals compared to all other forms of human-caused marine debris, and is four times more likely to impact marine life through entanglement than all other forms of marine debris combined.

"Marking fishing gear, as part of a package of preventative fisheries management measures, will help whales, dolphins, seals and turtles who get caught in this incredibly durable gear by making it possible for gear to be traced back to its source. The UN must show leadership and protect our oceans from ghost gear."

The situation is critical. The level of ghost gear has increased in recent years and is likely to grow further as fishing efforts intensify, creating wide-ranging problems for the marine environment and costing governments millions of dollars in clean-up expenses. An estimated 5 to 30% of the decline in some fish stocks can also be attributed to "ghost gear".

Since 2017, New Zealand has pledged their support to the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), committing to address the significant amount of marine debris caused by lost and discarded fishing gear.

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