Ghost Fishing by Lost Fishing Gear

AUTHORS: James Brown-Graeme Macfadyen-Tim Huntington-Jessica Magnus-John Tumilty

‘Ghost fishing’ is the term given to the continued fishing by fishing gear that has been lost or abandoned. It is largely confined to ‘passive gears’ such as gillnets, trammel nets, wreck nets, and traps. It is a phenomenon that has attracted attention over the past two decades given the sometimes graphic images of fish and other marine life entangled in lost nets, illustrating the potentially wasteful and destructive impacts of lost fishing gear. However, the real extent of the problem is not well known at the present time.This report is the output of a six-month research project funded by the Environment Unit of DG Fisheries and Maritime Affairs of the European Commission. Evidence suggests that ghost fishing from ‘active’ fishing gears such as trawl nets and from ‘static’ pot fishing is not significant in European Union (EU) waters, and the focus of this project is therefore on ghost fishing in static set-net fisheries. The work in essence attempted to answer the following three questions: What are the main gaps in our knowledge about the extent of ghost fishing; based on what we do know, to what extent is ghost fishing a serious issue in European Union waters; and if it is a problem, how effective are gear retrieval programmes and other management options in dealing with it? The project involved a detailed literature review, brief surveys with selected fisheries in the EU, a workshop of industry participants and specialist fisheries researchers, and desk-based analysis and report writing.

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