Fishing for deadly ghost gear

‘Ghost Fishing’ is what fishing gear does when it has been lost, dumped or abandoned. Imagine a fishing net that gets snagged on a reef or a wreck and gets detached from the fishing vessel. Nets, longlines, fish traps or any man-made contraptions designed to catch fish or marine organisms are considered capable of ghost fishing when unattended, and without anyone profiting from the catches, they are affecting already depleted commercial fish stocks. Caught fish die and in turn attract scavengers which will get caught in that same net, thus creating a vicious circle.
Ghost fishing longline survey Croatia
Lost fishing gear, or so-called ‘ghost gear’ is one of the greatest killers in the oceans. Literally hundreds of kilometres of nets and lines get lost every year and due to the nature of the materials used to produce these types of gear, they can and will keep fishing for multiple decades, possibly even centuries.
Ghost fishing net survey Croatia
Divers are all too familiar with this phenomenon, especially in well-fished areas. As founders of the Ghost Fishing Foundation we were confronted with ghost gear while diving the many wrecks in the Dutch North Sea. In 2009 we were part of a local team of divers who started to clean those wrecks. After some years of local efforts it was time to broaden the horizon and get in touch with like-minded groups all over the world. And so the Ghost Fishing Foundation was born.
Ghost fishing net survey Croatia
The Ghost Fishing Foundation has been collaborating worldwide with various local groups of divers and salvage companies to remove lost fishing gear. With projects in Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Croatia, United Kingdom and the United States we work on existing projects, set up new ones and document these through visual media, informing a wide audience and raising social awareness. We exchange solutions and best practices by maintaining a steady stream of information through social media, and a website that offers extensive information and possibilities for interaction.
Ghost fishing net recovery Croatia
The Ghost Fishing Foundation recently launched unique collaborations with several well-known organisations like Healthy Seas Initiative, World Animal Protection and Greenpeace and they are part of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI). The GGGI aims to improve the health of marine ecosystems, protect marine animals, and safeguard human health and livelihoods. GGGI was launched in September 2015 and is the first initiative dedicated to tackling the problem of ghost gear on a global scale. The GGGI’s strength lies in the diversity of its participants including the fishing industry, the private sector, academia, governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations.
If you would like to know more about ghost fishing gear visit www.ghostfishing.org or their social media channels on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Pascal van Erp is the founder and chairman of the Ghost Fishing Foundation. You can follow Pascal at @suberp on Twitter.