Reporting and retrieval of lost fishing gear: recommendations for developing effective programmes

Drinkwin J (2022) Reporting and retrieval of lost fishing gear: recommendations for developing effective programmes. FAO;

Abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear, alternately known as ALDFG or ghost gear is the most harmful form of marine plastic litter for marine animals and habitats. It also can impede safe navigation, mars beaches and reefs, and causes economic losses to fisheries and other marine-dependent industries across the globe. While current estimates of the amount of ALDFG in the ocean are not available, a growing body of evidence has documented high rates of ALDFG in fisheries around the world, with coincident costs to fisheries, harm to the environment, and safety risks. Because most fishing gear has significant plastic components, the negative impacts from ALDFG also include less direct but longer term impacts associated with other plastic pollution and microplastics including negative effects on biota, water quality and even human health.

Advancing solutions to ALDFG on a global scale has gained momentum with the efforts of the FAO, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), and the IMO through their multilateral fora (COFI, UNEA and MEPC); the publication and endorsement of the Voluntary Guidelines for the Marking of Fishing Gear (VGMFG); the IMO action plan to address marine plastic litter from ships; the creation of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI); and the establishment of the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Pollution (GESAMP) Working Group 43. These efforts reflect the growing understanding that ALDFG is a considerable and damaging source of MPL in the ocean. With the publication of the VGMFG and the Best Practice Framework (BPF) for the management of fishing gear, there are now references for how to prevent loss of fishing gear and prevent harm from ALDFG.

Focusing on two key recommendations of the VGMFG and the BPF, this report describes systems for fisher-led reporting and retrieval of lost fishing gear, identifies critical elements of successful programs, and recommends next steps for countries to develop successful programs.