Fisheries: Marine litter and Ghost gear

Fisheries: Marine litter and Ghost gear

In the last decade, media and NGOs has brought the attention to marine litter (plastic mainly) and ghost gear (abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear = ALDFG) as a transboundary problem that involve the entire production supply chain globally.

In September 2014 the Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14), the Commission proposed an aspirational target of “reducing marine litter by 30 % by 2020 for the ten most common types of litter found on beaches, as well as for fishing gear found at sea, with the list adapted to each of the four marine regions in the EU.

There are several reasons and sources of marine litter and ghost gear that have been identified by several studies, gap analysis and scientific. These are:

  • ALDFG does not enter formal waste management of the fishing Industry
  • Poor management of marine litter & gear onshore and at ports
  • Adverse weather conditions
  • Fishing gear not being brought ashore

The Fishing Industry Association (FIA) in Papua New Guinea is leading the implementation of procedures to prevent the occurence of Marine litter and ghost gear in the members’ fleet. A full risk assessment was carried out and also a training in-situ with representatives of three fishing companies (Frabelle fishing, RD tuna fishing and PTG).

In 2016, the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) set up a framework for best fisheries practices of ALDFG. This framework provide tools and a risk analysis to design policies and procedures to prevent fishing gear is lost and become in ghost gear globally.

The best practices for fishing gear provide a detailed explanation how to design and implement performance indicators, policies and procedure to minimize the negative impact of fishing gear


The training included GGGI guidance and also FADs information. The tuna industry also relies on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) that possess a high likelihood and risk to become ghost gear. FIA members have been working in the development of a Biodegradable FADs device, material for making the FADs are available locally in PNG and Philippines.

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) has organized several workshops have been attended by PNA countries representatives and FIA members representatives to learn, share and improve the technic on how to make and handle Biodegradable FADs in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean and the PNG EEZ & AW waters as well.

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) has been working closely with The Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project to accelerate the use of biodegradable materials in fish aggregating devices (FADs). This initiative addresses some of the challenges facing tuna fisheries by implementing best practice solutions to reduce the amount of plastic materials used to construct fishing devices, in an effort to achieve sustainable fisheries practices and biodiversity conservation (FAO August 2019).

Abandoned and lost FADs can end up stranded in coasts, and sometimes in vulnerable ecosystems such as coral reefs. Other impacts include marine animals getting caught in submerged netting, and the accumulation of plastics at sea. Finding alternatives to existing non-biodegradable materials, applying good practices on how to avoid abandoned and lost fishing gear, and collecting non-utilized fishing gears, could prevent these issues and make FAD-fishing more sustainable.

On the other hand, in May 2018, the European Parliament and Council agreed on developing and setting up a new EU legislation & policy regarding the Single use Plastic to prevent the pollution of the Ocean with marine litter.

The public consultation, that took place between December 2017 and February 2018, received more than 1800 contributions. 98.5% of respondents considered that action to tackle SUP marine litter is “necessary”, and 95% consider it “necessary and urgent”. More than 70% of manufacturers and more than 80% of brands and recyclers considered action “necessary and urgent”. Only 2% of respondents believed that there should be no new measures at European level and 79% believed that unless measures are taken at the EU level, they would remain ineffective.

Plastic pollution has reached all the Oceans, mainly for inappropriate disposal and inappropriate waste areas and waste management. A key issue that has been recognized is the lack of awareness of the consequences of this.

FIA propose to find practical solutions for the responsible management of marine litter and fishing gear at the sea and at ports. The development of policies and procedures depends on the complexity and sophistication of fishing gear in the Tuna Industry fishing on the PNG EEZ and the AW waters. FIA includes the primary and secondary fishing gear that includes: Purse seiners, FADs, aFADs and any related fishing gear used in the fishing operations (e.g. buoys) as well as all sources on Marine litter that may be go onboard on a fishing trip.

The strength of the PNF FIA Marine litter & Fishing gear policy relies on metris and performance indicators that are auditable and allow PNG FIA assess the progress of the implementation.

It is on good timing to have a video of fishing for litter from the UK – enjoy the video below.

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