Tangled Seas: A Snapshot of Abandoned, Lost, or Otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear in South Asia
18 September 2023
In recent years, marine plastic pollution has emerged as a significant global issue. At the global level, it is estimated that 80 percent of all plastic pollution found in the marine environment originates from land-based sources and the remaining 20 percent from marine sources. Abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), colloquially known as ghost gear, contribute significantly to plastic pollution in the ocean. Estimates of the contribution to ALDFG vary based on model and estimation techniques employed, and gear loss and impacts also vary by gear type. The physical impacts of ALDFG are well-documented and not only include entanglement and capture but also ingestion. Abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear, as with other marine plastic pollution, can travel long distances via winds and ocean currents before sinking, accumulating along shorelines, or converging in large plastic patches in the oceans, such as the one in the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem (BoBLME). The problem of ALDFG is global, though it varies in nature from location to location and is dependent on various factors. The lack of comprehensive monitoring makes it difficult to determine the extent of plastic pollution from fishing vessels, namely fishing gear. The first step requires the development of measurement systems and national baseline assessments to identify gaps and interventions. These interventions may take various forms, from enabling the substitutability of gear materials, to valorizing waste materials and providing better waste management systems to incentivize behavioral change. While such interventions present significant challenges, there is a critical need to inform policy development and provide institutional and investment recommendations to minimize the stream of plastic waste from fishing and fishing-related activities.