Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
Thresher Shark trapped in a fishing net Photo: (c) Brian Skerry, National Geographic
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued a new report yesterday illuminating the devastating impact of derelict or abandoned fishing gear in the ocean (aka “ghost gear”), and the numbers are terrifying — between 500,000 and 1,000,000 tons of ghost gear wind up in the ocean EACH YEAR. This is the most long-lasting and deadly form of plastic pollution in the environment. Just last week, federal fisheries managers reported that another highly endangered North Atlantic Right Whale was spotted tangled in fishing gear off the New Jersey coast and experts say it is only a matter of time before this gear kills the young male just as it appears to have killed the whale’s mother last summer.
Why This Matters: While fishing gear that is in use is a threat to marine life like whales, abandoned fishing gear is just a tragedy waiting to happen and completely needless — eliminating it is totally within our control. So much marine life becomes entangled or ingests it. WWF found that the number of species affected by either entanglement or ingestion of plastic debris has doubled since 1997, from 267 to 557 species. 66% of marine mammals, 50% of seabirds, and all 7 species of marine turtles. Given the extinction crisis facing the planet, not to mention the global decline in ocean health, it is crucial to do what we can to eliminate this type of ocean pollution. Otherwise, the permanent loss of the North Atlantic Right Whale and other extinct species will haunt us.
Ghost gear can be a navigation hazard, affecting a vessel’s propulsion and the ability to maneuver, causing operational delays, economic loss, and, in extreme cases, injuries or even the loss of lives of crew members or ferry passengers.
The scale of the problem is massive. For example, according to WWF, an estimated 160,000 blue crab traps were lost every year in the Chesapeake Bay in the Atlantic Coastal Plain of the eastern US between 2004 and 2008, and more than 70km of gillnets were lost in Canada’s Greenland Halibut fishery in just five years.
Right Whales and Vaquita
There are many imperiled species but two of the most highly endangered by ghost gear are Mexico’s tiny vaquita porpoise, which is down to just 10 known animals, and the North Atlantic Right Whale, which has a population of only 400 remaining. Of the danger to the latest entangled North Atlantic Right Whale, Emily Green, an attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) said, “Tragically, this is yet another dead whale swimming.” CLF has sued federal fishery managers and the government is now under a court order to issue new rules by next May that will protect right whales from entanglement in fishing gear. IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue team recently had to deal with a dead minke whale that washed up on a Cape Cod beach entangled in fishing gear. It is issues like this that make the campaign to set aside 30% of the planet by 2030 for nature so important. As Patrick Ramage of IFAW explains, “It’s not enough to decry or diligently document the death of a species. These whales are dying at human hands, while the solutions that will save them are well within our grasp.”
Five winners have been awarded £1 million each by Prince William’s Earthshot Prize in recognition for their sustainability and conservation efforts. The winners across five categories are: coral-growing and reef-restoring enterprise Coral Vita; the Republic of Costa Rica for its programs in forest restoration; the company Takachar whose technology can turn agricultural waste into sellable […]
To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, we’ll need action from every sector, but the gaming industry hasn’t been a prominent warrior for climate action. In fact, the gaming industry accounts for about 2.4% of residential electricity use in the US each year, and produces as much carbon dioxide as 5 million cars. Now, a new […]
Today is the final day of Paris Fashion Week, and as the couture craze grips the city and fashion enthusiasts worldwide, some designers are taking sustainability to the next level. Stella McCartney — known for her vegetarianism, anti-fur and leather policy, and commitment to sustainability — centered mushrooms in her Paris show this week. […]
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.