Marine stocks hurt by abandoned fishing gear, finds UN study

A sea turtle tangled in an abandoned or lost fishing net

6 May 2009 – The world’s fish stocks are seriously threatened by the growing presence of lost and discarded fishing gear that now make up about 10 per cent of all marine litter, according to a new report released today by two United Nations agencies.

The study found that large amounts of fishing gear lost or abandoned at sea has resulted in frequent incidents of “ghost fishing,” trapping and killing fish, seabirds and marine mammals.

Discarded fishing equipment is also posing a serious hazard to ships, creating navigation problems and causing accidents at sea, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in the report.

"The amount of fishing gear remaining in the marine environment will continue to accumulate and the impacts on marine ecosystems will continue to get worse if the international community doesn't take effective steps to deal with the problem of marine debris as a whole,” said Ichiro Nomura, FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Strategies for addressing the problem must occur on multiple fronts, including prevention, mitigation, and curative measures, Mr. Nomura said. He noted FAO is working closely with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in its ongoing review of Annex V of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) to address the issue.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “There are many ‘ghosts in the marine environment machine' from overfishing and acidification linked with greenhouse gases to the rise in de-oxygenated ‘dead zones' as a result of run off and land-based source of pollution.”

He said the problems caused by abandoned and lost fishing gear must be addressed collectively to preserve the productivity of oceans and seas for future generations.

“Our hope is that this report will prompt industry and governments to take action to significantly reduce the amount of lost or abandoned fishing gear in the marine environment," added Mr. Nomura.


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