World’s largest seafood firms pledge to tackle abandoned plastic fishing gear

A coalition of ten of the world's biggest seafood companies have joined a scheme connecting businesses, non-profits, scientists and public sector bodies in a bid to tackle the 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear abandoned in the world's oceans each year.

World’s largest seafood firms pledge to tackle abandoned plastic fishing gear

Ghost gear is estimated to account for 46-70% of global macroplastic pollution

The companies, including Cargill and Thai Union, are the latest signatories to the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), which was set up by non-profit World Animal Protection in 2015 to help remove some of the millions of abandoned fishing nets, pots and lines that get left in the sea each year.

This waste, also known as ghost gear, is estimated to represent 10% of all marine debris and as much as 70% of all macro-plastic in the ocean. Once dumped, ghost gear is likely to remain present for more than 600 years.

The impact of ghost gear on ecosystems and economies is extensive. The presence of ghost gear has been found to bring about declines of 5-30% in fish stocks, depending on fishery size, type and location. This damages biodiversity and pushes costs for seafood companies and consumers higher. Given that three billion people worldwide rely on seafood for more than 20% of their weekly protein intake, these impacts are a threat to food security, according to the GGGI.

The GGGI’s supporting organisations have collectively committed to supporting 30 projects addressing ghost gear by 2025 – projects which the newest signatories will now be involved with.

Convened by the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship initiative (SeaBOS), the new signatories include Maruha Nichiro, Nissui, Thai Union, Mowi ASA, Dongwon, Skretting, Cargill, Cermaq, Kyokuyo, and Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF).

“This announcement sends perhaps the strongest message yet that the global seafood industry is recognising the severe threat that ghost gear poses and is increasingly committed to tackling the problem in its supply chains,” the GGGI’s director Ingrid Giskes said.

“We look forward to working with SeaBOS to make our ocean cleaner and safer for all.”

The announcement comes one year after the GGGI pledged to double the amount of funding its members would funnel into scaling up projects aimed at addressing and preventing the problem of ghost gear, especially in developing countries, from $1m in 2018 to $2m in 2019.

Membership on the initiative is currently just shy of 100 organisations, with other signatories including the likes of Tesco, Nestle, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Marks and Spencer (M&S) and Waitrose & Partners.

Sarah George

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