Ghost gear in world's oceans is having catastrophic effect

Ghost gear in world's oceans is having catastrophic effect

- in Science
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LONG BEACH, Calif. — The tools of the fishermen’s trade are what make it possible for them to harvest the 170 billion pounds of seafood that the world feasts on each year.

When the items — nets, lines and traps — are inadvertently lost or abandoned at the bottom of the ocean, they become classified as ghost gear. The discarded debris not only pollutes the waters, but it disrupts ecosystems and has become increasingly deadly.

A 2018 report by London-based World Animal Protection highlights how the accumulation of ghost gear in global waters is having a “catastrophic impact”: Each year, more than 705,000 tons of it builds up in the oceans — an estimate the nonprofit animal welfare group believes may actually be higher.

Meanwhile, up to 71 percent of “entanglement incidents” involve encounters between an animal and plastic rope or netting, which includes ghost gear. In 79 percent of cases, entanglement causes harm or death, the study found.

“Ultimately this could mean our oceans simply stop providing for humans in the many ways we now rely on them,” the report said.

But some people are hard at work to prevent that from happening.




Image: A net filled with dredged up off the coast of Long Beach, California, in December 2017.

A net dredged up off the coast of Long Beach, California, in December 2017.