What else can be done? (We mean apart from the efforts of Fishing4Ghosts)
1. Mark the gear
Marking gear enables identification of ownership and encourages responsible management of fishing gear. It can be a good way to identify and understand where recovered gear originally came from and return it to its owner, not just to identify offenders. Like many things, investing in the prevention of the problem through best practices, such as gear marking, may be more cost-effective than the clean-up required after gear is already lost. This is generally a better way of reducing ALDFG debris and its impacts.
2. Improve reporting and recovery
Lost gear should be reported so that recovery efforts can be made. However, many vessels may not be able to retrieve the gear themselves because they lack the appropriate equipment or because it would be dangerous for the crew. Other vessels do not report losses because of fear of blame. A “no-blame” approach could be adopted to remove the vessel’s liability for losses. Incentivised retrieval schemes could also be implemented so that vessels that are equipped to do so bring back not only their own gear but other lost gear that they encounter at sea. Authorities could play a bigger role in supporting recovery efforts and enforcing adherence to internationally-binding instruments, such as the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships(known as MARPOL), that require lost gear to be reported.
3. Stop illegal fishing
Although some gear is indeed lost by accident, some gear is abandoned as part of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. IUU fishing vessels sometimes dump their fishing gear when patrol vessels are nearby or when they have been denied entry to a port. These ships are also less likely to report gear that may have been lost due to extreme weather conditions or human error.
4. Give economic incentives for prevention
Some fishing gear may not be worth very much monetarily; therefore fishers have little incentive to look after it appropriately or retrieve it when lost. Introducing schemes which add value to end-of-life fishing gear or create economic incentives for returning gear to appropriate disposal or recycling facilities could be a way to make this option attractive to fishers.
5. Invest in new technologies
Certain types of fishing gear can be quite expensive so, in some cases, fishers will go to great lengths to retrieve it. New technologies that use transponders and can be tracked by Global Positioning Systems (GPS) can make retrieval easier. Weather monitoring technology helps prevention efforts, as it can help fishers know when there will be bad weather so they can avoid setting their nets.
6. Improve collection, disposal and recycling schemes
Ports should be equipped with low-cost or free facilities to dispose of or recycle fishing gear. The existence of such facilities and providing boats with appropriate disposal bags on board can help solve the issue of where to put the gear once it is no longer wanted or once it has been retrieved from the oceans. There are a growing number of products, including clothing, carpet tiles, swim wear and sports equipment, now being made out of recycled fishing gear, but there is a need for more facilities with the ability to recycle the specific type of plastic used in fishing gear.
It is estimated that about ten percent of the world’s population depends on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods. The more illegal or ghost fishing occurs, the fewer resources fishers have to earn a living and secure food sources.