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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Defra’s response to the WWF call to action against ghost fishing gear

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: marine, plastic

There is coverage in the Mirror, Telegraph, Independent, Press Association, Manchester Evening News, Business Recorder, Daily Star, Yorkshire Post and Sky News of a warning issued by WWF, that up to a million tonnes of fishing gear is left in the ocean each year. This form of plastic littering, also known as ‘ghost gear’, comprises of lost, abandoned or broken nets, lines and ropes which can create deadly marine debris for wildlife.

Coverage notes that WWF has called for more governments to support a new UN treaty on marine plastic pollution, and for it to include measures to control ghost gear.

The UK is leading the way in tackling plastic pollution in the ocean, and we are an active member of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, a pioneering cross stakeholder alliance focused on solving the problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear worldwide.

We have also committed to establishing a £500 million Blue Planet Fund to help eligible countries protect their marine resources from key human-generated threats including marine pollution, as well as climate change, overfishing and habitat loss.

A Defra spokesperson said:

Lost, abandoned or discarded fishing gear can cause tremendous damage to some of our most precious and fragile marine life.

As an active member of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative we encourage other nations to join and are working internationally to address the problem of ghost gear.

We acknowledge that more needs to be done to support marine wildlife to thrive which is why the UK has taken an extensive number of actions to further protect the marine environment.

Through the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance (CCOA), alongside Vanuatu, we have brought together 34 Commonwealth states, all pledging action on plastic pollution, whether by taking steps to eliminate avoidable single-use plastic waste, committing to cutting down on single-use plastic bags or banning the sale and manufacture of microbeads in rinse-off personal care products. To support the ambitions of the CCOA,  the Government has committed up to £70m to boost global research and support developing countries to stop plastic waste from entering the ocean in the first place, as well as to develop sustainable manufacturing.

We are also working with the UN Food and Agricultural Organization to improve the marking and tagging of fishing equipment to aid greater recovery of lost fishing gear.

In addition, in England we support Fishing For Litter, a voluntary, unpaid litter bycatch removal scheme by commercial fishermen which provides fishing boats with large bags to collect marine-sourced litter. When full, these bags are deposited on the quayside and collected for disposal.

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