Seafood Industry Stepping Up to Tackle Lost Fishing Nets

whale entangled in fishing net
whale entangled in fishing net

Published Mar 23, 2019 9:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

The world’s 25 leading seafood companies are making progress in stopping their lost fishing gear, according to a new report from World Animal Protection. 

The 2019 report, Ghosts beneath the waves: 2nd edition, ranks 25 seafood companies in Tiers 1 (setting best practice) to 5 (not engaged) on their ability to address the problem of ghost gear.

Ghost gear – lost or abandoned fishing equipment - is one of the biggest threats to marine animals. 640,000 tons of ghost gear is left in oceans each year – more than one ton every minute. These nets, lines and traps can take up to 600 years to decompose. 

As in 2018, no companies achieved Tier 1 status. However, Thai Union, TriMarine and Bolton Group have entered Tier 2 for the first time and have now made ghost gear best practice integral to their business strategy. 

Overall Lost Gear Ranking 
Tier 1 – Leader / setting best practice: None of the assessed

Tier 2 – Achiever / integral to business strategy: Thai Union, TriMarine, Bolton Group

Tier 3 – Improver / established, but work to be done: Bumble Bee Foods, Grupo Nueva Pescanova

Tier 4 – Engaged / on the agenda, but limited evidence of implementation: American Seafoods, Cargill Aqua Nutrition, Dongwon Industries, Grupo Calvo, High Liner Foods, Nippon Suisan (Nissui), Nutreco, Pacific Seafood Group, Princes, Young’s Seafood

Tier 5 – Not engaged / no evidence that ghost gear is on the business agenda: Andrew Marr International, Austevoll, Beaver Street Fisheries, Camil, Clearwater Seafoods, Cooke Seafood, East Coast Seafood Group, Frinsa, Maruha Nichiro Corporation, Nippon Suisan (Nissui), Samherji

The average score for the 15 companies covered in both the 2018 and 2019 assessments has increased from 23 to 30 percent, with seven companies moving up one or more tiers. In 2019 10 additional companies were also assessed.

The average company score was 28, placing the average company in the middle of Tier 4. Only nine of the 25 companies currently acknowledge ghost gear as an issue for them. Just two publicly report on progress against targets on how they take action on ghost gear.

Whales, dolphins, seals, turtles and other marine animals are also impacted by ghost gear.  Lost gear is four times more likely to trap and kill marine animals than all other forms of marine debris combined. 
In addition, it is also contributing to the ocean’s plastic problem with more than 70 percent of macroplastics by weight being fishing related.

The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), an alliance founded by World Animal Protection in 2015, is dedicated to tackling the problem of ghost fishing gear at a global scale. Ingrid Giskes, Global Head of Sea Change at World Animal Protection, said: “Over the last year the seafood industry has really stepped up to tackle ghost gear and is now taking its responsibilities much more seriously. Companies, governments and other stakeholders have acknowledged ghost gear is a major problem that must be fixed quickly."

The GGGI has welcomed around 40 new members in the last 12 months.