Corporate Giants Join Fight to Stop "Ghost" Fishing Gear

CC BY 2.0. Verity Cridland

Nestle and Tesco are the latest members of a worldwide movement against abandoned fishing nets.

It's been encouraging to see how quickly countries are moving on banning or restricting straws, stirrers and other single-use plastics. However, any time we write about this progress, someone will inevitably comment that such items are but a drop in the ocean (sorry!) compared to the broad range of plastics which are dumped in the sea each year.

Ghost nets—or the abandoned nets of commercial fishing operations—are a classic case in point. In fact, Sylvia Earle's Mission Blue organization describes them as "among the biggest killers in the ocean"—a fact that's hardly surprising given that these nets are literally designed to kill, even when used correctly.

There is, however, hope for some reform on this front too. The latest such sign comes from the fact that corporate giants Tesco and Nestle just signed up to the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, a now 90-member organization which aims to build a critical mass of businesses, nonprofits and governments who can work together to build workable solutions to the problem of abandoned fishing gear.

With supported projects ranging from ghost gear reporting apps to net recycling and waste-to-energy processing of retiring fishing nets, it appears that the GGGI is taking as broad an approach to solving the crisis as there are diverse causes of it in the first place. But given the fact that the organization estimates between five and 30 per cent of harvestable fish stocks are impacted by 'ghost gear' pollution, the problem is an urgent one.

Short of refusing seafood all together—which many, of course, are doing—we might not be able to directly attack ghost gear in the same way we can skip a straw. But we can push businesses to do more. It looks like those businesses might be listening.