A simple piece of technology could prove successful in reducing the amount of fishing gear lost to our oceans, according to a new report.
Lost fishing gear – also known as ‘ghost gear’ – is a major contributor to marine pollution. An estimated 700,000 metric tons of ghost gear enters the world’s oceans every year and, in some studies in specific locations, it has made up as much as 46% of marine plastic pollution.
To try and address that, the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) established its SAFEGEAR project to analyse the scale and severity of the problem and develop an AIS beacon– to tackle it.
The project received funding from the Waitrose Plan Plastic grant fund, managed by the environmental charity Hubbub, and its aim is to make the SAFEGEAR beacon available to fishers through grant funding and reduce plastic pollution.
As part of the project, BLUE worked with Dr Winnie Courtene-Jones and Professor Richard Thompson OBE FRS, from the University of Plymouth’s International Marine Litter Research Unit, to assess the scale and cost of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear.
It also worked with marine specialists to develop a cost-effective sea-hardened beacon that fishers could easily deploy. They also engaged with the Fishing Animateurs, who work closely with fishers’ associations, producer organisations and fishing gear technology experts, to build a knowledge base of gear loss and to consult on the application of SAFEGEAR.
Dan Crockett, Development Director at BLUE, said:
"The small-scale fishing community needs good news stories this year more than ever before and we believe SAFEGEAR could be a powerful and inspiring one. Ghost fishing gear is almost always unintentional and its effects on our marine life are devastating. We are grateful to Waitrose and Hubbub and the Plan Plastic grant for making this trial possible and we aim to continue our work to help fishermen mark their gear.”