Fishing gear may be lost or discarded at sea, adding to the growing quantity of plastic waste at sea and on beaches. Two new studies from the global GloLitter Partnerships project, which aims to reduce sea-based marine plastic litter, address this phenomenon.
The reports outline case studies which may offer a way forward to tackle abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear, also referred to as ALDFG or ghost gear.
ALDFG is the most harmful form of marine plastic litter for marine animals and habitats: it can impede safe navigation, damage beaches and reefs, and lead to economic losses for fisheries and other marine-dependent industries across the globe.
The study on Reporting and retrieval of lost fishing gear: recommendations for developing effective programmes describes systems for fisher-led reporting and retrieval of lost fishing gear. It identifies critical elements of successful programmes and recommends next steps for countries to develop such programmes in their turn.
The report provides seven case studies of effective reporting and fisher-led retrieval programmes from around the world. The Puget sound Reporting, Response, and Executive summary xii Retrieval Program involves a rapid response to mandated reports of lost fishing nets. The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries ALDFG Reporting and Retrieval is led by the fisheries authority, which charters a fishing vessel for several weeks in order to retrieve ALDFG from areas where fishers have reported loss. The Fishing for Litter and the Mediterranean Cleanup programmes involve fishers in collecting and bringing back to port any marine litter and ALDFG they have encountered during active fishing. The Fishing Net Gains Africa project involves fishers in the collection and deposit of end-of-life and ALD nets to Fishing-HubNets: here, the nets are processed for disposal or upcycling into marketable items by community women. The Washington Coast Crab Tag and Area A Crab Association programmes both engage crab fishermen to retrieve lost crab pots.
The report on Legal aspects of abandoned, lost and otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) examines the legal responses to ALDFG in the context of marine fisheries. It discusses the nature of ALDFG and some of the reasons why fishing gear is abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded, and examines the international community’s response to the problem. One key finding is that ALDFG is simultaneously a fishing problem, a maritime transport problem (regarding vessel source pollution) and an environmental problem. Not surprisingly, this results in the involvement of several UN entities in seeking solutions: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
The study describes the basic legal and institutional arrangements in four case-study jurisdictions that have adopted legal measures to address ALDFG: Australia, the European Union and its Member States, Norway and the United States of America. These case studies reveal a tripartite responsibility shared between fisheries, maritime transport and environment agencies. The intersectoral nature of ALDFG suggests the need for a collaborative and coordinated approach.
The two recently-published reports were developed under the GloLitter Partnerships (GLP), a project funded by the Government of Norway and run by IMO and FAO aiming to reduce marine litter. The global project is supporting developing countries, including Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), in identifying opportunities for the prevention and reduction of marine litter.