Call for ID tagged fishing nets

fishing equipment 640,000t of ghost gear is left in oceans globally each year. Credit: Quentin Bates

World Animal Protection has called on the member states of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to ensure all fishing nets are ID tagged by 2025 to reduce the numbers of marine animals being killed by lost fishing nets.

Every year more than 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals and turtles are caught in ‘ghost gear’ - abandoned, lost and discarded fishing nets, lines and traps which can take up to 600 years to decompose. 640,000t of ghost gear is left in our oceans each year and seven out of ten (71%) entanglements involve plastic ghost gear.

Attending the 33rd Committee on Fisheries (COFI) session in Rome, Ingrid Giskes, global head of sea change at World Animal Protection, said: “Marking fishing gear, as part of a package of preventative fisheries management measures, will help whales, dolphins, seals and turtles who get caught in this incredibly durable gear by making it possible for gear to be traced back to its source. The UN must show leadership and protect our oceans from ghost gear.”

More accountability needed

At present, there are no effective mechanisms to identify the owner of fishing gear when it is lost or abandoned, making it harder to hold companies responsible and identify illegal operations.

If all commercial fishing nets were tagged, fishing vessels would be incentivised to do more to ensure nets are not lost and to recover those that are, said World Animal Protection. Enforcement agencies would have the opportunity to trace and prosecute serial offenders.

The not-for-profit organisation said physical tags, chemical marking, colour-coding, Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID), radio beacons and satellite buoys are just some of the tagging approaches available.

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