The oceanographer, Laurent Lebreton with the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, stated that the marine debris problem is perceived as much severe than it was expected.
Their report states that the “‘Great North Pacific garbage patch’ is 4 to 16 times bigger than previous estimations. It occupies an area more than twice the size of France and It’s made up of an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of rubbish, most of which is in large chunks.”
The ‘garbage patch’ is mostly made up of lost, as well as abandoned fishing gear which is called Ghost Gear. It represents half of the total weight of the surface debris.
Fishing gear is made from durable materials such as plastic which will keep entangling see animals for, at least, 600 years. This process started around the ‘60s, and it has degraded into microplastics, potentially entering our food chain.
In the past, the ghost gear issue was not taken into consideration, so a 2009 report from the Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) claimed that 640,000 tons of fishing gear were lost or abandoned in the world’s oceans every year. However, a recent investigation revealed that this number is considerably higher. Furthermore, the impact ghost gear has on animals is equally shocking.
The latest report highlights almost 136,000 whales, seals, sea lions, turtles and dolphins are entangled in ghost gear every year. On the other hand, innumerable fish, birds, and crustaceans are caught and killed without any objective.
To be more precise, 71% of marine animal entanglements involve ghost gear, and ghost gear has impacted 45% of all marine mammals, reason why they appeared on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species
As the fishing gear is designed to capture and kill marine animals, no fisher wants to lose gear. Unfortunately, gear loss does happen, and it continues to do so when lost at sea, for long periods of time.
Taking Some Action
The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) was created in 2015. Its main purpose is to bring together all relevant sectors, including the fishing industry, and tackle the problem at global scale.
This project has grown its alliance to 68 participant organizations. It is also supported by 12 governments, and well-known organizations such as the European Union Directorate-General of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Decisions should be made more than ever. Nowadays, the problem is better documents as the fishing industry is taking its responsibility more seriously. Some global seafood companies are joining forces to combat marine plastic pollution as well.
Experts are using the three Rs (Remove, Reduce and Recycle) to ensure no more gear enters the ocean, to clean what is present today but also to inspire action and good decision to change practice all around the world.
We need to be aware that to create a sea change, it is necessary to have a united approach at all levels. By working together locally, regionally, and globally, it would be possible to combat these ghosts beneath the waves and protect the oceans and the life within them.
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