fishing net pollution

Fishing Net Pollution Horror: Why we need to address it

Plastic pollution is an issue that everyone needs to be accountable for. While the changes you make in your personal life are incredibly important, there’s an elephant in the room that we need to talk about: fishing net pollution. 

Also referred to as ghost fishing gear, abandoned fishing nets, ropes, and lines account for 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Each year, fisheries lose or discard 500,000 to 1 million tons of fishing gear in the ocean, with fishing nets being one of the worst offenders. Here’s what you need to know and what you can do about it.

What is Fishing Net Pollution?

While you might assume that the fishing industry would look after their gear and dispose of it properly at the end of its useful life, that’s just not the case. Every year, tons of fishing nets and lines are either lost or discarded of in the sea. 

This pollution is incredibly dangerous for the marine life that depends on the oceans for their food and habitat. Fishing net pollution is the deadliest type of marine plastic – it traps unsuspecting sea turtles, sharks, marine mammals, and seabirds. These animals usually die by suffocation or exhaustion – a slow, painful death.

Ghost gear and fishing net pollution also damage the habitat they land in. Some end up in critical habitats, like the coral reefs. 

fish caught in fishing net

What Happens to Discarded and Lost Fishing Nets? 

Plastic doesn’t biodegrade. It isn’t compostable. Instead, if breaks down into tiny bits of plastic, called microplastic. While microplastic isn’t as big of an eye sore as the fishing nets, it may be equally as damaging because it ends up everywhere, which means animals and humans are consuming it. 

More than 90% of seabirds have plastic in their gut. Microplastics can be found in our drinking water and food, with most people consuming the weight of a 4×2 Lego’s worth of plastic each month. Researchers predict that, by weight, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. So, not only does fishing net pollution harm animals when it enters the ocean in its whole form, but it also harms animals as it breaks down over time.

While all of the plastic in the ocean is certainly not from fishing net pollution, it is one of the biggest offenders. One study reported that, by weight, up to 70% of macroplastics floating at the surface of the ocean was fishing related.

What Can You Do to Fight Fishing Net Pollution?

One of the most important things you can do to fight fishing net pollution, and marine pollution in general, is to educate yourself. So pat yourself on the back – you’ve already started the process! Documentaries are also great resources – plus, you can get family and friends to watch them with you to double your impact. Seaspiracy is a newer documentary with great investigative journalism. 

Consider lowering your fish intake or being mindful about how that fish got to your plate. Choose small scale fisheries and shop locally if possible. Look for certifications, like Fair Trade and Marine Stewardship Council, when purchasing fish.

Finally, make your voice heard! Seek out and sign petitions. Contact your local representatives and ask them what they’re doing for our oceans. No matter where you live, fishing net pollution affects the entire globe – so speak up! 

Let me know in the comments below what you’ll be doing to protect our oceans.

I hope you’ve found this blog helpful! As always, you can support me and the site by buying me a cup of tea or sharing the site with a friend. Your support means the world to me!

Mia Hadrill
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