How we’ve made waves for marine animals in 2015

Posted on 11/12/2015 by former employee Christina Dixon

2015 was an exciting year for our Sea Change campaign: protecting animals from ghost fishing gear and finding sustainable solutions.

Here are some of the highlights from the UK…

1. A seal success!

It’s always sad to hear about animals in distress so when we get to tell the story of an amazing rescue and rehabilitation we find that inspiration to keep campaigning. Iron Man and Beast were two seals that suffered horrific injuries from entanglement, but thanks to our friends in Cornwall they were rescued and released back into the wild this spring. Just look at those guys!

2. Big Spring Beach Clean

In March we took to the beaches with our friends Surfers Against Sewage to sponsor their Big Spring Beach Clean and get you all involved in monitoring and removing ghost fishing gear from our coastlines. Over 6,000 people removed a staggering 25 tonnes of marine litter ion one weekend, making a major difference for marine animals.

Here we are talking about one of the nets we found -

3. Sea Change Week!

In June we held our first ever Sea Change Week to raise awareness of ghost gear to politicians and the public. Thousands of you wrote to the Fisheries Minister George Eustice asking for action and MPs showed their support by standing up for marine animals at Parliament. We’ve built on this success by working with the government and industry to develop new and collaborative solutions to stop so much dangerous marine litter at sea.

4. A Royal encounter

Perhaps our highest profile meeting of the year was the opportunity to work with other NGOs and local businesses as part of an event on oceans plastics in Cornwall. We had the chance to highlight the threat of discarded plastics to the marine environment, including ghost fishing gear, to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall…and a giant lobster.

5. Ghost gear busts and other beachside fun

This summer we were everywhere from Scarborough to Bognor Regis organising beach cleans in hard to reach locations and ‘ghost gear busts’ for kids at local seaside events to spread the word on how a small beach clean can have a big impact for animals. Never one to miss an opportunity to get the family involved, here’s a picture of my parents learning about ghost gear on the South Coast.

6. Out with the rubbish cleaners

This September we were thrilled to have the chance to work with our friends in NARC once again to remove ghost gear from the Pembrokeshire coast together with local fishermen. The haul included bringing up a huge one tonne net in a major team effort.

7. We launched the first global initiative to tackle ghost gear

For the first time ever a group of people from seafood, fishing industry, academia, not-for-profit, animal welfare and intergovernmental organisations got together to agree to launch an initiative for addressing the problem of ghost gear globally. Launching the GGGI and ensuring the best brains and experience are at the table working together has been a huge amount of work for our campaigns team but will bring amazing benefits to the environment, animals and industry. Watch this space!

8. A Scottish adventure

To follow the launch of the GGGI, three partners from the initiative got together for a collaborative ghost gear recovery mission in Scapa Flow, Orkney. The team recovered 500kgs of nets which were sent for recycling, strings of lost pots and old ropes, as well as…a deep fat fryer…to show how people can work together for change.

9. A workshop in Wales

The year finished with a highly successful workshop in Wales exploring ways in which fishermen can develop and implement new solutions to the ghost gear problem and share their knowledge with fishermen around the world. The visit showcased how important industry-led solutions, innovation and best practice are to influence meaningful change across the sector.