From above, the ocean often appears as an endless horizon of blue and turquoise waters, but beneath the depths, it contains hidden death traps for many of its inhabitants. Every year, an estimated 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear is left behind in our oceans killing at least 136,000 seals, sea lions and large whales. Two of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre’s conservation programs, Ocean WiseTM and the Great Canadian Shoreline CleanupTM, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited, are excited to be working with World Animal Protection on an innovative new campaign to tackle this issue.

“Discarded ghost gear is endangering our sea life,” says Lynn Kavanagh, campaign manager with World Animal Protection. “Fur seals, sea lions, humpback and right whales are among the many iconic marine animals falling victim to entanglement in fishing gear. Animals caught may drown within minutes, or endure long, slow deaths lasting months or even years, suffering from debilitating wounds, infection and starvation.”

The issue with fishing gear is that once it’s lost, it can be difficult to locate. Lost gear can travel thousands of kilometres from its origin and the owners or fisheries associated with discarded gear typically remains unknown. The best way to manage this problem is through prevention initiatives, those aimed at reducing the amount of gear that ends up in the water in the first place.

Ghost gear

Ghost gear can entangle and kill marine animals in the ocean.

A recent report published by World Animal Protection states that solving this problem must come from cross-sectorial co-operation and action between the seafood industry, governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations. To begin this important collaborative work, World Animal Protection is founding the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, the goal of which is to share expertise and knowledge about the ghost gear problem and collectively develop solutions to reduce and remove the amount of ghost gear in our oceans.

In November 2014, World Animal Protection hosted a round table meeting to discuss the objectives and framework of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative. It was supported and endorsed by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Aquafil Group, a global synthetic fibre manufacturer and co-founder of the Healthy Seas initiative. Delegates from non-governmental organizations, governments, research institutes and businesses pledged support for the initiative.

Ocean Wise and the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup’s early support of World Animal Protection’s work on this issue demonstrates the importance of the initiative. World Animal Protection hopes it will encourage other retailers and businesses to join.

If your business is interested in getting involved in the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, please contact Lynn Kavanagh at lynnkavanagh@worldanimalprotection.ca.

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