Sea Change: our fight against Ghost Gear

Floating death-trap

Lost or discarded plastic fishing nets, ropes and lines - also known as ‘ghost gear’, kills and injures more than 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals and turtles each year. 

Through our Sea Change campaign, we have helped save thousands of marine animals from these floating death-traps.

  • Humpback Whale Breaching

  • Loggerhead Turtle Trapped

  • Ghost Gear Clean Up

Credit: World Animal Protection

Credit: Jordi Chias / naturepl.com

Credit: World Animal Protection / Greg Martin

The problem with Ghost Gear

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A staggering 640,000 tonnes of ghost gear is left in our oceans each year – more than one tonne every minute!

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Ghost gear is made from plastic and can take up to 600 years to break down.

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Ghost gear is by far the deadliest form of marine debris, because it is designed to catch marine life.

Our #SeaChange campaign focused on bringing people together to help end the suffering of marine animals from 'ghost gear' - abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear

The Sea Change Campaign

World Animal Protection launched the Sea Change campaign in June 2014, to protect marine animals from tragic suffering and death by ghost fishing gear. World Animal Protection achieves this by tackling ghost fishing gear through the 4 Rs, namely by:

  1. Reducing the volume of fishing gear entering the oceans.
  2. Recycling ghost fishing gear in innovative ways, and creating sustainable business models.
  3. Removing ghost fishing gear.
  4. Rescuing animals — providing training and support, and enabling rescuers to free marine animals entangled in ghost fishing gear.

World Oceans Day 2019. Credit: World Animal Protection

Global Ghost Gear Initiative

In 2015, World Animal Protection established the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), a cross-sectoral alliance committed to driving solutions to ghost gear. 85,000 of you signed our petition and together we persuaded Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Lidl and Tesco to join the fight against ghost gear by joining the GGGI.

The GGGI now has over 100 participants from the seafood industry and private sector, governments, including the United Kingdom, and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) committed to ocean conservation.

Saving Shetland's sealife...with your help!

The Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary is the only facility in Shetland that rescues and rehabilitates marine life from the devastating injuries caused by ghost gear. Your amazing support is helping build their desperately-needed new seal unit. You can see the latest footage from the remote sanctuary here.

When animals become tangled in ghost gear, they sometimes drown or starve as they try to escape. Others face longer term suffering as they grow and the lines or nets cut into their bodies.

Recycling ghost gear in Cornwall and Devon

South West England is an important habitat for grey seals and other marine animals threatened by ghost gear. You helped us fund volunteer divers Fathoms Free to develop a recycling network in SW England, that has collected 44 tonnes of end-of-life fishing nets since July 2018, preventing the nets harming marine life or spoiling the coastal environment. The collected nets are recycled and used to produce kayaks.

Description: Odyssey Innovation recycles ghost gear into kayaks. Credit World Animal Protection

Scapa Flow, Orkney cleared of ghost gear 

Scapa Flow, the site of the scuttled German WWI fleet, is a sensitive marine habitat and favourite site for UK divers. You helped us fund Ghost Fishing UK, who cleared Scapa Flow in Orkney of tonnes of derelict ghost gear, and trained dozens of divers in ghost gear removal.

Description: Ghost Fishing UK clears Scapa Flow of ghost gear. Credit World Animal Protection

Animals need your protection

Across the world, animals suffer unthinkable cruelty - but you can help protect them from harm. 

Your kindness is a lifeline to animals in need. With your support, we can continue to respond quickly where we're needed the most.

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Working with fishermen in Wales

You helped us fund Neptune’s Army of Rubbish Collectors, who retrieve ghost gear from the Pembrokeshire coast, and raise awareness of its threats in fishing communities in Wales.

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